Posts tagged “Reader Review” include a few top articles from my weekly reading. Their topics may vary, but their quality and provocation quotient won’t. Enjoy.
I missed posting a Reader Review last week, so you’re getting a few extras this week.
Are “success cultures” kryptonite to creatives? What happens to cities when their artists leave?
London Guardian: I left New York for LA because creativity requires the freedom to fail (Moby)
I was so accustomed to the city’s absurd cult of money that it took me years to notice I didn’t have any artist friends left in Manhattan, and the artists and musicians I knew were slowly moving farther and farther east, with many parts of Brooklyn even becoming too pricey for aspiring or working artists. —Moby
Moby reflects on New York’s evolution from culture center to culture consumer. His piece is low on objective measures and high on subjective ones, but if your region also has an artistic community that’s changed over the last 15-20 years, what effects have you noticed?
More on Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, Google, your content, and your metadata
London Guardian: Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Yahoo release US surveillance requests (Shane Ackerman and Dominic Rushe)
Reader Review #02 included a post on civic surveillance in Ukraine. On Monday this week, the London Guardian updated us on how major US-based web service providers have forwarded user content and metadata to the government in just the last year. The raw numbers aren’t overwhelming, but the sharing culture merits sustained and substantive conversation about the balance of privacy and security we’re willing to live with.
Janna Malamud Smith offers a sobering judgment at the end of Private Matters:
“There is no doubt that finding ever new ways of linking databases is on many people’s minds for corporate profit and national security, as well as a jumble of other confused purposes. The terrorism ‘war’ mentality makes it less likely that attention will be paid to the long-term and compounded implications of such ‘security’ decisions.” — Janna Malamud Smith
The common herbicide that poisons animals—and us
New Yorker: The Scientist Who Took on a Leading Herbicide Manufacturer (Rachel Aviv) #LongRead
TEDWomen2010: The Toxic Baby (Penelope Jagessar Chaffer & Dr. Tyrone Hayes | 18 min. video, with transcript)
The herbicide in question is atrazine.
In their 2010 talk, Chaffer and Hayes explain that atrazine turns on aromatase, an enzyme that converts androgens into estrogens. Estrogens in turn promote some hormone-receptive cancers, and breast cancer medicine has included estrogen inhibitors for decades. A newer hormone-blocker, letrazole, works by blocking aromatase and preventing the androgen-estrogen conversion process triggered by substances like atrazine. Atrazine is now banned in the EU, not for health reasons, but because of its ability to contaminate groundwater—what one Houston, TX, nursery calls its ability to persist.
Read or listen to NPR: Chemical Study Becomes A Tale of Conspiracy and Paranoia. Note how much the Aviv report re-focuses on the individual scientist rather than the studies he’s produced.
Also check out Debating How Much Weed Killer Is Safe in Your Water Glass (Charles Duhigg, NYT, 2009). This article notes that concentrations of atrazine are not always reflected in local consumer water safety reports.
If you live in the US, about how many pounds of atrazine does your state use per square mile? What the map below shows about my own state concerns me. Of course, the use of atrazine seems concentrated in the corn-producing Midwest and parts of the Midatlantic region. This is logical since atrazine is used mostly on corn crops, just under 60 million pounds of it on corn in 2009.
“The public good is not as important as profits.” —RJ Casey, Detroit
“Regarding science, it is important to keep in mind that the major players in Washington do not understand science.” —The White House Writers Group
HT to Brent Welch for the share.
On the future of ‘America the Unique’
The Atlantic: The End of American Exceptionalism (Peter Beinart)
The Atlantic‘s Peter Beinart focuses on US exceptionalism tenets promoted by the conservative political wing: public religiosity (Protestant Christianity in particular), patriotism (including promulgating US values via media and enforcing them via the US military), and economic mobility accessible to everyone. Drawing on population trends and Pew research, Beinart argues that these three tenets are “declining fast” with rising resistance to organized traditions and their clergy, limited collective international action or outright non-interventionism, and increasing class consciousness taking their place. These shifts worry some older Americans, but Beinart sees humility and recognition of fallibility as a potential positive:
“As [Reinhold] Niebuhr and [Walter] Lippmann understood, the best way to ensure that America remains an exceptional power—better than the predatory empires of the old world—is to remember that we are not inherently better at all.” —Peter Beinart
It’s also worth bearing mind that US experiments like institutionalizing religious liberty or centering power in “the consent of the governed” rather than in a monarch or a state distanced from the people aren’t unique to the United States anymore. If anything, the US is less unique than it used to be because other nations observed which ideas worked and adopted or adapted them locally: the US is less exceptional wherever it succeeded.
After last week’s Nye-Ham dust-up, the Baha’i suggest that “religion must be in accord with science.”
Huffington Post: A Baha’i Take on the Creation/Evolution Debate (Stephen R. Friberg)
The conflict [between religion and science] is darn good drama, marvelous for motivating the troops, or the congregation, or the donors, and for grabbing headlines and commentary.
Modernism and fundamentalism, science and apologetics have been duking it out for about 6 centuries. Their battle continues with high human, educational, and community costs within my denomination as well. I don’t expect this to be resolved by the 2015 General Conference session next either: at this meeting, the Adventists’ fundamental belief on creationism will be edited and its meaning will be restricted to further marginalize evolutionary science or theology related to it.
Only on the surface is the creationism-evolution debate a battle about language and word meanings. I also think framing it as a conflict in worldviews or culture—how it’s usually framed in the mass media and how Nye and Ham framed their own debate—traps us all into a crush-our-opposition mode rather than a more constructive learning, knowledge-building mode.
What if it doesn’t matter whether we believe the world was made in 6 days or over millions of years because we’re failing to care well for the world we have today? There are many reasons we might make good choices, and many excuses to make poor ones: sustainability can flow from religious, secular, mythic, or empirical reasons. Fact can ground, and stories can inspire. Why eliminate reason categories out of hand when what we need is more motivation, not less?
Ultimately, it is a conflict that should just be peacefully resolved. Men and women of goodwill should work together to lay the issue to rest where it belong—along with other dead or dying 19th-century ideological battles. It is just diversion and a side-show to our main task, which is to work together towards that necessary and long-hoped for goal of peace and prosperity for all the countries and peoples of the world, regardless of their beliefs—or lack thereof. — Stephen R. Friberg
HT to Jack Gordon of Faith in Action DC and the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, which sponsored the Young Adult Faith Leaders Summit I attended this weekend.
How homophobia, social oppression, and shaming affect even seasoned performers
Video: Panti’s Noble Call at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, Ireland (Panti Bliss [Rory O’Neill])
Content note: frank discussion of homophobic verbal abuse, violence, socially-acceptable oppression, self-hatred, self-doubt, and the odd logical acrobatics necessary when LGBT people are no longer free to name attacks against them.
From the Irish theater stage to the computer screens and smartphones of the world: Panti Bliss, an Irish drag artist known off-stage as Rory O’Neill, waded into Ireland’s marriage debates last weekend with this monologue at Abbey Theater on homophobic violence, marginalization, and how oppression prompts self-doubt.
Panti was welcomed onstage by Abbey actors at the end of a performance of The Risen People, a play about poverty and workers’ strikes in Dublin during a turbulent historical period. Scotland passed an equal access to marriage bill just last week, but I’m not sure Ireland is ready to follow.
Crystal St. Marie Lewis: Go Ahead. Leave Your Church. (Notes on the Myth of One-Size-Fits-all Christianity): This is why we call Crystal “the other C.S. Lewis.” In this article, my friend absolutely nails the institutional Church’s facile responses to “nones” and other unaffiliated believers. “Go Ahead, Leave Your Church” is one of her clearest comments on the merit of non-affiliation and the challenge it represents to reactive, institution-centric outreach to new or former church members.
Most of us understand that the hand-wringing doesn’t work and panels and surveys every few years play themselves out. Whether we are brave enough to accept that what once worked no longer works and that radical change is necessary remains to be seen.
Scot McKnight of Jesus Creed (via Bryan Berghoef): New Year’s Resolution: Conversation: Scot refers back to the salons of the 17th Century French Enlightenment for insights into the “central characteristics of a genuine conversation.” The French salon model of conversation inspired the American Revolution’s “Great Conversations” across the Pond. In person and in print, new Americans shared and debated the principles of the nation and government they were building together.
McKnight points out how conversations necessarily fail if designed to affirm orthodoxy or transfer information, and how conversation requires safety, questions, shared assumptions, a spirit of exploration (including an openness to learning), wisdom, and focus. Great read and worth reflecting on.