The Atlantic

“The Enduring Solidarity of Whiteness” (the bargain at the foundation of class is between Mr Rich White Man and Mr Poor White Man)

All these attacks of Ta-Nehisi Coates for supporting reparations are poor and problematic. It’s driven by campaign politics, of course, as the whining is coming from Sanders supporters. Yet the attacks are old-school rude, too. Doug Henwood egging on Adolph Reed in a recent discussion is particularly shit. Adolph Reed believes intersectional class struggle serves neoliberalism, which is a garbage claim.* And Cedric Johnson’s “open letter” in Jacobin is shit, too. Coates handled that quite well, I think. The title of his response to the open letter is in my title above. I don’t think I need to be jumping in this debate, but I do think the attacks are on behalf of an old (van)guard from within the left that for some reason believes it can compose class struggle without recognizing that workers are socially different. Black poverty is different than white poverty. We can recognize this in class struggle without straining credulity with a structural insistence that class is primary while race (or sex and gender because patriarchy) is secondary.

*Reed’s worry, when not being an asshole, seems reasonable. He is worried about mystification. Marxism is supposed to be that which demystifies. Reed believes dialectical materialism can demystify race as a social relation. And perhaps it can. I don’t think Coates would disagree. Reed would argue he believes struggle should be focused on material conditions rather than social constructs. Again, I don’t think Coates would disagree.

It’s not about ideas and concepts. It’s about organization and conditions. That’s the basic gist of the Marxist argument against identity politics. We have seen this debate repeatedly play out on tumblr and reddit, with orthodox Marxists supporting something akin to Reed’s claim. Remember Mark Fisher’s attempt to decry identity politics in Jacobin? 

In the end, though, I find the claim weak. I don’t believe the Fishers and Reeds in organized class struggle actually are interested in antiracist, feminist Marxism at all. For them, the pejorative phrase “identity politics” is a convenient/efficient means to round up bad subjects within leftist discourse and action and punish them for stepping out of line.

It’s a means to organize from without. In other words, it’s a means for members of elite institutions and for individuals who find themselves leaders to justify a stasis within social organization that, fortunately for them, preserves their statuses while condemning new “liberal” elements within struggle that challenge orthodoxy and hierarchy. I’ve seen this as a problem, particularly with the way black people and women are treated, since the mid90s. So, I’m keen to fight it. Authentic cooperation would permit social difference in class struggle.

ADHD is Different for Women by Maria Yagoda / April 3rd 2013

ADHD does not look the same in boys and girls. Women with the disorder tend to be less hyperactive and impulsive, more disorganized, scattered, forgetful, and introverted. “They’ve alternately been anxious or depressed for years,” Littman says. “It’s this sense of not being able to hold everything together.

Confused and ashamed by their struggles, girls will internalize their inability to meet social expectations. Sari Solden, a therapist and author of Women and Attention Deficit Disorder, says, “For a long time, these girls see their trouble prioritizing, organizing, coordinating, and paying attention as character flaws. No one told them it’s neurobiological.”

How Chameleons Change Color

A new study suggests that the transformation takes place via crystals (crystals!) arranged within the reptiles’ skin.

Skin that changes color according to one’s emotional status may be the stuff of human nightmares; for chameleons, though, it’s essential to survival. The lizards’ hue-changing skin, for one thing, functions as a kind of external thermostat, allowing the creatures to regulate their body temperatures: Dark skin absorbs more heat than pale. But changeable skin also allows the animals tocommunicate with each other. Males become bright when they’re attempting to express their dominance; they become dark during aggressive encounters with those who would question that dominance. Females use their skin color to signal a willingness—or lack of willingness—to mate. It’s skin that doubles, essentially and a little horrifically, as a flexible mood ring. “Owners of chameleons,” Wiredpointed out last year, “can learn to read their pet’s mood based on the color of its skin.”

But how, actually, do the animals carry out their skin-based semaphore? A new study from the journal Nature Communication suggests an answer. Researchers used spectroscopy to examine in detail how light and matter interact within the chameleons’ skin. Their conclusion: The color-changing takes place via crystals—iridophores, they’re called—arranged under the chameleons’ skin. The iridophores are formed from guanine, one of the building blocks of DNA, and they’re “efficiently organized” across the chameleons’ skin in a triangular lattice design.

When the chameleon gets aroused in some way, be the excitement be the result of a threat or of a Ryan Gosling-esque male, the latticework stretches. And that, in turn, crystals working the way they do, changes the wavelengths of light that the crystals reflect. “They are like selective mirrors,” Michel Milinkovitch, a co-author of the study at the University of Geneva, told the BBC.

To reveal those “mirrors,” Milinkovitch and his colleagues focused on the panther chameleon, native to Madagascar and able to transform itself, in a matter of minutes, from green (its most common state) to yellow and red and back again. The researchers extracted the top layer of the animals’ skin, exposing it to chemicals that made the iridophores change in size. They also filmed their subjects while they were facing rival males, thus brightening and darkening themselves to demonstrate dominance and then aggression. And they saw that the colors of the chameleons being observed matched the colors of the skin that was being transformed chemically, in a petri dish. As Milinkovitch put it: “It really demonstrates that the color change is happening due to the modification of these crystals.”

In other words: According to the research, it’s not pigments that change the chameleons’ color; it’s the creatures’ sparkling skin. Chameleons communicate, and survive, in many ways. One of those ways, it seems, is a light show.

A poem can feel like a locked safe in which the combination is hidden inside. In other words, it’s okay if you don’t understand a poem. Sometimes it takes dozens of readings to come to the slightest understanding. And sometimes understanding never comes. It’s the same with being alive: Wonder and confusion mostly prevail.
—  Mark Yakich, “Reading a Poem: 20 Steps,” published in The Atlantic
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Picturing the New Americans 

Minneapolis, Minnesota, is home to roughly 30,000 people of Somali origin. Many of them are refugees, having fled famine and decades of war—a situation not dissimilar to that of today’s Syrian refugees. For the past year, photographer Arthur Nazaryan documented this enclave of new Americans to show that Somalis, and migrants in general, could be more than “perpetrators or victims of conflict." 

The Somalis who live in Minneapolis are much like regular Minnesotans —barbecuing, riding speedboats, going to the playground, and hosting dinner parties. According to Nazaryan, they are also avid Snapchatters, posting selfies of their every move. “I was kind of surprised, given how conservative the culture can be, to see the younger generation going out, dating, and using social media,” Nazaryan said. “In Somali culture, it’s really important to be connected and communicate with each other.”

theatlantic.com
The New Intolerance of Student Activism
A fight over Halloween costumes at Yale devolves into an effort to censor dissenting views.
By Conor Friedersdorf

I haven’t seen a more tone-policing, elitist, and invalidating reaction to the unrest at Yale than this disappointing article from The Atlantic.

It basically reads like:

“Raw anger and polemics concerning inequality are acceptable in Ferguson but you are Yalies *upper middle class liberal gasp*”

theatlantic.com
Compulsive Decluttering: The Opposite of Hoarding

This is a good read about the other side of “decluttering” (a word I don’t like to use for various reasons). There’s a lot in here I agree with, and some I don’t, but I think it just serves to reinforce that a healthy balance should be what we’re looking to achieve, and that throwing out all of your possessions isn’t the one true answer to having a clean and organized home.

Balance. Get rid of what you don’t need, but work with what you have.

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SIDESHOW: Sometimes there are other ideas that I think would be awesome. So think of these as guest blog entries from other sections of my brain. (See all Sideshows here.)

This is from a Tumblr that doesn’t exist called Hannah Monta-Nehisi Coates. All captions are quotes from American journalist  and Genius Grant recipient Ta-Nehisi Coates.  All images are stills from the show Hannah Montana.

A growing number of studies [show] that social interactions affect the composition of the microbiome. Through hugs, handshakes, and even hip-checks, we translate our social networks into microbial ones, transferring benign or beneficial microbes to our neighbors, and acquiring theirs in return.
—  Your social life might be changing your microbiome. Given that you’re 99% microbe, that’s kind of a big deal. 

“In the future, everyone’s going to have a robot assistant. That’s the story, at least. And as part of that long-running narrative, Facebook just launched its virtual assistant. They’re calling it Moneypenny—the secretary from the James Bond Films. Which means the symbol of our march forward, once again, ends up being a nod back. In this case, Moneypenny is a send-up to an age when Bond’s womanizing was a symbol of manliness and many women were, no matter what they wanted to be doing, secretaries.

Why can’t people imagine a future without falling into the sexist past? Why does the road ahead keep leading us back to a place that looks like the Tomorrowland of the 1950s? Well, when it comes to Moneypenny, here’s a relevant datapoint: More than two thirds of Facebook employees are men. That’s a ratio reflected among another key group: futurists.”

Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?

Wearing a Suit Makes You Think Differently

The Atlantic has an article today about how wearing a suit not only changes how the world perceives you, but how you perceive the world. An excerpt:

A new study looks specifically at how formal attire changes people’s thought processes. “Putting on formal clothes makes us feel powerful, and that changes the basic way we see the world,” says Abraham Rutchick, an author of the study and a professor of psychology at California State University, Northridge. Rutchick and his co-authors found that wearing clothing that’s more formal than usual makes people think more broadly and holistically, rather than narrowly and about fine-grained details. In psychological parlance, wearing a suit encourages people to use abstract processing more readily than concrete processing.

Research on the effects of clothing on cognition remains in its early stages. Another similar study showed that when subjects wore a white coat that they believed belonged to a doctor, they became more attentive, an effect that didn’t hold when they believed the garment was a painter’s. But clothing’s psychological effects have been specified for only a couple of the ways the brain makes sense of stimuli.

That said, at work, when some have to wear suits, there are some specific implications when attire flicks on abstract processing. “If you get a stinging piece of critical feedback at work, if you think about it with a concrete processing style, it’s more likely to negatively impact your self-esteem,” says Michael Slepian, another one of the paper’s authors and a professor of management at Columbia Business School. Slepian added that thinking about money with an abstract processing style might lead one to skip impulsive purchases in favor of smarter, long-term savings behaviors.

BRB, going to up the effects by only wearing white tie and tails from now on. 

You can read the rest here

(via IQ Fashion)

To me, the ideal poem is one a person can read and understand on the first level of meaning after one reading. An accessible quality, I think, is important. Give them something to begin with. Something that seems plain and simple but has something strange—something about it that’s not quite ordinary, that will cause them to do repeated readings or to think about it. The ambition is that, each time they read, they will get to another level of the poem.
—  Charles Simic, for the By Heart series in The Atlantic
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For The Atlantic’s book review of “Lurid & Cute” by Adam Thirlwell. The novel was presented as a pulp novel for the millennial generation, where the main character goes through the book without any of his actions being questioned and managing to avoid conflict at every turn.

The two scenes described in the article are the narrator waking up next to a woman covered in blood (who isn’t dead and turns out fine) and him walking into buy new clothes at a store (where no one takes any notice of the fact he’s cover in blood after taking the woman to the hospital).

AD Lauren Giordano