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Category Archives: Zeitgeist Movement

3 Questions: Sandy Alexandre on the literary roots of technological innovations – MIT News

Posted: June 6, 2020 at 5:35 pm

Associate professor of literature Sandy Alexandres research spans late-19th century to present-day black American literature and culture. In 2019, Alexandre was awarded a prestigious Bose Research Grant, which supports her study of the under-explored phenomenon of ideas that first appear in speculative fiction becoming technological and social reality. SHASS Communications spoke to Alexandre recently about her project to illuminate the literary, humanistic sources of many technological innovations and advancements.

Q: Literature as a source for technological innovation is under-explored territory. What directions are you most excited about in your current research? What are some historic examples of tech inspired by literature?

A: In asking participants in my study to read specifically for a work of speculative fiction's imaginary inventions, I am effectively asking them to read with a one-track mind. Needless to say, this approach to teaching literature is not characteristic of my usual or preferred modus operandi. So, besides a very extensive list of imaginary inventions, I'm curious to know what else that very particular way of reading might yield.

Could it help us understand how to factor imaginary inventions into a work of fiction's overall design, meaning, and significance, for example? Why is a particular category of imaginary invention, rather than another one, necessary to the particular story a work of speculative fiction wants to tell?

Overall, I hope that being able to survey speculative fiction's various and sundry imaginary inventionsmore systematicallywill not only illuminate the answers to these questions, but also generate new ones. My sense is that the larger the sample size of imaginary inventions we can collect, the better and more precise will be the kinds of questions we can ask of it. The world needs good question-askers as much as it needs good problem-solvers, and this research project aspires to produce some very good askers.

The World Wide Web is famously said to have been inspired by Arthur C. Clarke's short story Dial F For Frankenstein (1964). Whatever the truth is, I'm not surprised that a writer's process of meticulously crafting creative ways of communicating with readers would inevitably lead to the creation of imaginary inventions that foresee entirely new forms of communication. It's more than a little reasonable to assume that we can trace the lineage of communication platforms and devices back to well-crafted works of the language arts. Literature, its readers, and the inventors who are inspired by it are all a part of STEM history.

Q: Is the influence of literary texts on the development of technology an instance of one way literature functions in culture more broadlyoften as a harbinger, articulating new realities and possibilities? How does this research highlight how literature looks forward both technologically and socially?

A: Absolutely! My research will highlight how literature is inherently an imaginative and inventive enterprise. Putting words together in ways that are oft-thought but never so well-expressedis an exercise in prescience and trendsetting. A writer's constant tweaking and manipulation of words constitute atinkering the kind of tinkering one might associate with the makings of an engineer.

Literature is famously good for synthesizing a zeitgeist and distilling it into a cultural product. That ability, at the macro level, to compress a whole climate into a novel-length or short story-length work is not at all far from what writers do, at the micro level, when they harness their abstract ideas by transforming them into imagined physical objects. And frankly, who best to anticipate the needs of a society than writers who are deeply familiar with and who regularly immerse themselves in the countless narrative and life scenarios made available to them in the works of literature they read?

In other words, the sum of their many reading experiences is, to a great degree, encyclopedic in a way that necessarily makes their knowledge predictive. That such knowledge would endow writers with the ability to dream up inventions that should or could exist in the service of making our lives better and easier strikes me as the most logical progression. Avid readers who constantly encounter plot lines in manifold permutations and who write from that well-read positionality have a distinct advantage certainly over nonreaders in their ability to predict the future, to some extent, by virtue of being well-versed on past and current events.

Q:Why do you think these imagined innovations make the jump from page to the world we live in? Are there some new technologies you can imagine that you'd like to see become reality? What technology in modern speculative literature has the potential to become reality?

A: When these jumps from the page to reality in the world happen, they do so because the imagined innovations are utterly impressive, inspiring, and daring. Their kinetic energy is infectious inspiring inventors and technologists to attempt to reify them in the world. Offered up as plausible and attainable by how they're described (and the very fact that they are describable in the first place), it is no surprise that imaginary inventions would find their match in the ever-curious makers and would-be makers of the world.

These jumps also happen because, for the most part, readers know that speculative fiction writers have honed a knack for foresight. And many readers rely on this quality to become more prescient global citizens in an ever-changing world. Our speculative fiction writers are the unsung prophets among us.

As for new technologies that I can imagine and would like to see in reality well, I would like to see what Ill call intermediation technologies, which could be used, for example, between doctors and patients to create better communication and understanding. Too often, doctors make inaccurate diagnoses based on how patients answer questions, and whether the doctor believes those answers. Intermediation technologies would reconcile the fact that, while patients are, usually, laypersons in the medical field, they are also experts about certain aspects oftheir own bodies.

Say a patient comes in describing a nebulous abdominal pain using vocabulary that does not align with the doctors more specialized terminology and the doctor is not adept at translating the patient's vocabulary into medical terms. For that situation, Id like to see a visually compelling, user-friendly, hand-held digital device that presents a repertoire of diagnostic possibilities that the doctor and patient can consult and discuss together. Think of it as the medical version ofthe Shazam app that identifies music. But even beyond identification, this medical intermediation device would also further better communication, respect, and trust between doctors and patients.

Finally, thinking about imaginative tech with the potential to become reality, the 3D holographic human form that the Star Trek television series popularized is actually becoming reality, albeit still very costly at this stage. The recent transition to digital teaching and learning makes me wonder how much better "virtual" education would be if it was on a holographic platform one that enables more interaction, more eye movement, body language, and sense of presence in other words, more of the kind of holistic learning opportunities we experience in face-to-face environments.

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3 Questions: Sandy Alexandre on the literary roots of technological innovations - MIT News

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Black Lives Matter: Resources and Responses – Creative Review

Posted: at 5:35 pm

The death of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis last week has caused an immediate response of grief and anger, as well as the examination by individuals and organisations across the world about how we respond to such deaths and the racism that they expose in Western society. Across the creative industries urgent questions have been asked about the slow response to calls for diversity and change, and what needs to happen now.

The instinctive initial response by many to Floyds death is to take to the streets and protest. Events are happening around the world, across America but also in London, Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin.

Photographers and filmmakers have been out capturing powerful scenes from the protests across the world:

PROTESTING FROM HOME

Yet during the pandemic, it can be difficult for people to protest physically. Mona Chalabi has been once again demonstrating the power that data can have to get to the heart of the matter in visuals online:

There are numerous petitions that can be signed, including the Justice for George Floyd petition. D&AD has put together a very useful resource list which includes other petitions as well as fundraising endeavours and wider reading. This can be found here.

And gal-dem has published a thoughtful piece on other ways to protest if you cant go out physically due to coronavirus. Protest has the function of agitating the state, though I believe its more moving function is one of collective catharsis, writes Melz. It allows us to come together as a collective and share in the grief and pain that we are all feeling. It gives us a place to channel and externalise the rage and hurt that runs through our veins each day in this white supremacist world. Still, the conflict remains how many more lives may we put at risk by taking to the streets during a pandemic? The piece then lists the many ways that people can channel grief and anger when physical protesting is not an option.

RESPONSES FROM BRANDS

As this New York Times piece points out, brands have begun responding to the cause, if somewhat warily. Theres a general trend toward executives in the C-suite being called out and pressure-tested by consumers who want to know where they stand theres an opportunity to differentiate not just on function, on whats a better mousetrap, but on values, says Americus Reed, a marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in the piece. Its smart theyre taking a stand, hopefully, because its moral, but also because they understand the long-term economic game.

And for brands that borrow heavily from black culture, the topic cannot be ignored, states influencer Jackie Aina in the piece. When it comes to relevant things happening, things you cant ignore like the Black Life Matters movement, police brutality or murders in our community, its crickets, and thats unacceptable, she said. If you are capitalising off of a culture, youre morally obligated to help them.

THE NEED FOR WIDER CHANGE

This moment is seeing a call for wider change across society, but also specifically in the creative industries with artists such as Campbell Addy, and Emmazed founder, Mo Mfinanga, calling for systemic change in how black creatives are treated in the industry.

In Vogue, UK editor Edward Enninful calls for recognition of the importance of cultivating an anti-racist agenda. This is an evolving conversation, writes Enninful, and it requires evolving education. We have to keep educating ourselves and our neighbours, or the atrocities wont stop. I do not condone the violence that is breaking out across America and other cities. I am not condoning the lootings. I support free speech, and the rights of people to protest, though I would caution that people make adequate safety arrangements in the light of the pandemic. I am convinced that we need to fight racism, to convert knowledge into anti-racism. And we need to do it together.

Fashion has a part to play in this, he continues. It occupies a unique place in the zeitgeist, and it has a singular ability to shift mindsets. I implore fashion brands, publications and retailers to employ more people from diverse backgrounds I truly believe this is the only way to effect real change. We need black people ingrained within the infrastructure of the fashion industry, not just on the other side of the camera or appearing on an Instagram feed. People need a seat at the table.

This is a viewpoint echoed in a recent piece in CR by Stormzy collaborator and writer Jude Yawson about racism in the UK. There is a grave and systematic error that pits people against each other, which has become the mainstay of the country, writes Yawson. If we want to reach a state of equality, the experiences of black and ethnic minorities must be recognised alongside wider Britishness. Whether its politically, or in the media, or in social media and its algorithms, creating our echo chambers of people this society as a whole needs to do better.

Diversity in the creative industries has been talked about for years, but, as is clear in the responses to Floyds death, change has not happened fast enough and there is a need for action as well as conversation. There is an opportunity here for the creative industries to respond to these terrible events by using its skills, talents and power to bring about real change and create a better world for us all.

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Black Lives Matter: Resources and Responses - Creative Review

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3 people who correctly predicted $10,000 Bitcoin (and how) – finder.com.au

Posted: at 5:35 pm

Update 3 June 2020

After about 14 hours above $10,000, Bitcoin crashed back down to $9,500 as quickly as it went up.

It appears to have been for the same reason it rose in the first place: whales traded big against the prevailing futures positions, triggering a squeeze. Basically, a big price movement starts liquidating futures contracts, which adds fuel to whatever direction the market is already moving.

The whales giveth, the whales taketh.

Michael Novogratz's prediction: "When 10k goes it will move fast" ended up being correct twice in one day, on both the way up and the way down.

The article below has been left as it was originally published, way back in the heady days of 2 June 2020.

Bitcoin is finally back above US$10,000, for the first time since February 2020, shortly before the massive crash of March. It was straining mightily and unsuccessfully to get past $10,000 a couple of weeks ago, but today it just abruptly pinged from around $9,700 to $10,200 in an hour flat.

Seeing Bitcoin back above that psychological five-digit mark is a heartwarming thing. It feels like Bitcoin is back where it belongs now and that everything is all right in the world once again.

Of course, given the actual state of the world right now that just goes to show why the number one rule of trading is to not trust your feelings.

In that vein, let's look at several different analysts who felt like Bitcoin was going to break $10,000 before it happened, and why they felt that way.

Some analysts are feeling the wind in their hair as they ride the Bitcoin rollercoaster out of the channel set following the 2017 highs, suggesting that Bitcoin may be on track to fundamentally shift out of its current price range.

Source

The timing is impeccable, because it lines up uncannily with the predictions laid out by the stock to flow model of Bitcoin valuation.

More specifically, we hit the "red dot" phase of the model on 1/2 June (depending on timezone), as laid out by pseudonymous analyst PlanB, just hours before Bitcoin pumped above $10,000. So, quite a few of the "red dot" crowd were celebrating this price rise before it even happened.

"The red dot" refers to the period immediately after the Bitcoin halving. It's called "the red dot" because improvised symbolism is the cornerstone of all faiths including the Bitcoin religion, and because red is the colour of certain dots on the chart below.

Source

The coloured dots on this chart are monthly Bitcoin prices, with the colour indicating how long until the next halving, and how long since the last halving.

The darkest blue dots are Bitcoin prices the month before each halving, while the darkest red dots (of the kind that popped out today) come out in the month after each halving. So, wherever the blue flips to red, that indicates a halving. As you can see, red dots have very consistently predicted a major Bitcoin price run since as far back as 2012.

In short, the red dot says that if history repeats itself, Bitcoin should see a major ascent this year to break $100,000 sometime next year. And now Bitcoin popped up above $10,000 just hours after the first dark red dot since 2016.

The thing about the red dot idea is that it simply says market forces will ineffably propel Bitcoin to higher price tiers, and that the power of maths means Bitcoin is simply destined to rise. That theory existed long before the Federal Reserve overclocked its printing presses in response to everything that's happening in 2020.

This poses something of a philosophical dilemma for anyone who wants to believe that the stock to flow theory predicts Bitcoin prices, while also attributing its price rises to other factors like quantitative easing or the White House's reaction to the ongoing protests, because it suggests Bitcoin prices would be doing the same thing regardless of what's going on in the world.

Other experts successfully called the rise before it happened by looking at more earthly factors, citing the general state of the world as a driver of Bitcoin prices, just generally feeling the vibe in the air and presumably tasting Bitcoin trading volume on the wind.

The tightest prediction around probably belongs to Galaxy Digital's Michael Novogratz, who pulled off this call about an hour before Bitcoin prices jumped above $10,000.

Source

Bitcoin's "coiling" was pointed out by others, who noted that Bitcoin had been settling into a tighter price range over time, which usually heralds a sudden, big move in one direction or the other.

The tension in the air may have given it the push it needed to go up instead of down when the time came. It's worth noting that the exact timing of the rise lines up closely with some of the US president's more fiery statements of the day.

"There was a sharp spike in the price this morning as US President Trump spoke to the press regarding the ongoing protests, which have been unfolding in cities across America. In the speech, he proclaimed that he would mobilise all available federal resources civilian and military. This quickly made headlines around the world as the mobilisation of the military in the United States is a rare occurrence," points out eToro analyst Matthew de Corrado. "For cryptoasset investors, this may have signified an escalation in the tension, and has no doubt caused some uncertainty over what could transpire in the coming few days."

Novogratz's first prediction ("Bitcoin will rise to $10k") has come to fruition, but the second ("Bitcoin will rise even faster after $10k") is still in the making and may hinge on current affairs, de Corrado said.

"In my opinion, Bitcoin, typically responds to depreciation of currency, global uncertainty and governmental instability. As weve seen this morning, the threat of using military action may have had a bullish effect on the asset. Any further instability in the US could put further upward pressure on Bitcoin," he said.

Craig "TraderCobb" Cobb also felt the move coming a full day in advance, as foretold in the charts. Some pretty high cap altcoins have been making major gains lately, he noted, and when people take profit against them they'll be trading back into Bitcoin.

"People trading the Cardano bitcoin cross will be taking profits back to Bitcoin when they do. Cardano/Bitcoin added 50% in 2 weeks. Due to the relative size of Cardano market cap wise with a 1.9 billion token value, the recent move higher is a lot of money to potentially flow back to Bitcoin," he wrote roughly 24 hours before Bitcoin made its move.

"Another example is Ethereum over the same 2 week period which has put on an impressive 14.85% against Bitcoin. Ethereum is the second highest by market cap behind bitcoin with $25 billion to its name which is another large amount of money if profits were to be taken and put into Bitcoin."

"So here we have 2 of the big market cap players both having added impressive gains against Bitcoin recently. These moves will account for a large portion of the possible money flow back to Bitcoin," he predicted.

That's exactly what happened. Bitcoin's sudden ascent initially dragged altcoins up with it, but then after Bitcoin crested $10,000 a lot of money bailed from altcoins back to Bitcoin, pouring gasoline on the fire and giving Bitcoin the cash infusion it needed to convincingly stay above $10,000.

The gold line is Bitcoin, the light blue is ADA/BTC, the purple is ADA/USD.

ADABTC chart by TradingView

Here we have three completely very different predictive methods, all of which looked at completely different things but somehow managed to paint the same picture, flagging down a price rise hours before it happened.

Something else they all have in common is that they're all expecting further rises.

The stock to flow model, or "the red dot" if you're feeling symbolic, predicts future rises because the unstoppable weight of sheer maths says Bitcoin prices should go up, and that's what the most consistent trend in Bitcoin says will happen.

Meanwhile, Novogratz is predicting a further rise because that's where the zeitgeist is leading us, and Cobb suggests that Bitcoin at $10,000 could reawaken wider media interest and bring some new money in.

"We really need to see Bitcoin above $10,000 to get the media back and new money flowing in," he wrote. "So, the question for bitcoin is how can the current market players get us above $10,000 to get the media chirping and the new money in?"

"Bitcoin is the headline grabber, you wont see anything in the news about the recent move of Cardano. Bitcoin needs to break above $10,000 for the media to come back to it."

The Bitcoin world appears to be feeling about as bullish as it ever has. But on the other hand, past performance does not guarantee future results, no matter how much it feels like it should.

It's also possible that whales deliberately orchestrated this rise specifically hoping that a break above $10,000, in conjunction with the red dot and the general vibes of the times, would be enough to spur some retail FOMO. There are enough mysterious whales in Bitcoin's ocean to move prices in all kinds of strange ways.

Plus, when we're asking whether Bitcoin is going to go up or down right now, the wisdom of the red dot is quite limited. It's all about tracing movements across years (with a yet-unknown degree of accuracy), rather than the day-to-day and week-to-week here. No matter how compelling or historically accurate it is, it can't indicate short, sharp moves of the kind we saw today.

"While the stock-to-flow analysis produced by PlanB has done very well to date in tracking the price of Bitcoin and predicting its future movements, my immediate concern would be correlating intraday movements in relation to a model that looks at data spanning multiple years," de Corrado said. "Investors should also remember that any historical data is not an indicator of future performance."

In the end, it seems the most accurate way of predicting the future is to wait until it happens.

Disclosure: The author holds BNB, BTC at the time of writing.

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of cryptocurrency or any specific provider, service or offering. It is not a recommendation to trade. Cryptocurrencies are speculative, complex and involve significant risks they are highly volatile and sensitive to secondary activity. Performance is unpredictable and past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before relying on this information. You should also verify the nature of any product or service (including its legal status and relevant regulatory requirements) and consult the relevant Regulators' websites before making any decision. Finder, or the author, may have holdings in the cryptocurrencies discussed.

Picture: Getty Images

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411 Readers Poll Results: The Top 20 Songs Of The 2010s – 411mania.com

Posted: at 5:34 pm

Last week we completed our countdown of the Top 250 Songs of the 2010s. Whether you agreed or disagreed, loved or hated our countdown, hopefully you enjoyed the ride but now its your turn. The votes have been cast, the results have been tallied and its time to reveal the 411 Readers Poll results.

Note:The readers poll has no limitations in terms of artists or tracks. It is also worth pointing out that when it comes to voting for songs (compared to albums) the voting gets spread incredibly thin. So tracks 20-15 received far fewer votes than tracks 14-1.

Foster The People didnt feature on the 411 list, but there is no denying that Pumped Up Kicks is one of the premier indie anthems of the 2010s that somehow slipped through our net. Listening back in 2020, Pumped Up Kicks feels very distant sonically more connected to the indie and psych revivals of the 2000s than 2010s strange adventures in sound.

Justin Timberlake is another artist that didnt make the cut on the 411 countdown, Ill happily take the blame for this one: reviewingMan Of The Woodsfor two different publication likely erased all my positive memories of JT which is a genuine shame as Mirrors is an ambitious, seductive and, by modern standards, understated R&B love letter.

M.A.A.D. City finished 2nd on the official 411 countdown and you can read our mini-essay about Kendricks street level teenaged anthem here.

Lordes Liability featured in 411s Top 10, but the trouble with picking a narrative driven album track is that you leave out an artists globe conquering bangers. Lordes whirlwind moment of dancefloor insecurity and seduction would have undoubtedly made our countdown were it not for the one track per artist rule. Check out our original review of Green Light

Kendrick Lamar finished second in 411s countdown and truth be told there were at least 10 tracks in contention for M.A.A.D. Citys placement. Swimming Pools (Drank) is one of Kendricks most successful crossover singles: a sorrowful reflection on alcoholism and the perils of using alcohol as an escape from the trauma of the streets.

Following in M.A.A.D. Citys footsteps, Beyonces zeitgeist capturing anthem, Formation, features on both the 411 and readers poll. Read more.

Nearly an exact match, the bombastic brilliance and cocksure swagger of Mark Ronsons Uptown Funk finishes just one place higher in the readers selection than it did on the 411 countdown.

Theres no denying Adeles dominance in the 2010s and while 411 ultimately opted for Rolling In The Deep few would question the inclusion of Set Fire To The Rain. This bulldozing anthem drives through the downpour in the verse before soaring triumphant during its arena shattering chorus. Set Fire To The Rain isnt Adeles biggest hit, but it is the sneaky favorite of millions of music fans the world over.

Frank Oceans dreamy and intoxicating rumination on his first gay kiss, Thinkin Bout You, becomes the latest track place on both countdowns. Read our full thoughts here.

An exact match! Rolling In The Deep finishes 11th in both countdowns and as a tease for what is to come, this is the one and only time our countdowns will (exactly) agree.

All Too Well which I think we can safely label Taylor Swifts finest songwriting accomplishment finished 138th in 411s countdown, but stands as the gatekeeper to the top 10 in the readers poll. Its worth noting that both Taylor Swift and Frank Ocean received a huge number of individual votes (albeit typically lower placements) from the readers and would have finished much high in an unranked vote. Read 411s take on All Too Well here.

Harry Styles tender, weightless and beautiful Bowie-esque ballad was an alternate on the 411 list, but its easy to see why this glorious 70s throwback ranks so highly among readers. This was the moment when the former One Direction star made it clear he would not follow Zayn Malik in chasing modern R&B trends, instead hed delve into the British rock canon for inspiration. Styles decision remains bold, while his peers found themselves wallowing in 90s revivalism he cast his net far broader to write retro-futuristic pop music that at the decades end feels more timeless than anything his former bandmates or celebrity peers have managed to produce.

This was a genuinely tough choice. Daft Punk finished 6th on the official 411 countdown with their mesmeric love letter to art of creation itself Giorgio by Moroder. The trouble with limiting yourself to one track per artist is that you are forced to choose between the grand artistic statement and the pristine banger. In many ways Im relieved the readers backed Get Lucky, both sides of Daft Punks sound deserve celebration. Nile Rodgers delicate disco guitar forms the backbone of this airy but irresistible anti-EDM anthem. Get Lucky was the sound of the summer in 2013 and every summer since.

One of the biggest climbers between countdowns leaping from no.94 to a 7th placed finished, but that should come as no surprise. Not only is Midnight City an incadescent peach of a track that thrives on both a packed dancefloor and alone through headphones, M83 are without question one of our readers favorite acts. Read our full thoughts here.

Its no shock to see Alright place so highly, it is unquestionable Kendrick Lamars most important track. Overnight Alright was transformed into an anthem for the burgeoning Black Lives Matters movement, with crowds of protestors and mourners across America chanting we gon be alright in unison. The perfect blend of an unsettling-yet-trippy arrangement with a wild, swerving verse that leads to a chorus that speaks profoundly to faith, communal spirit and resilience in the face of indignity. Alright believes in a brighter future while acknowledging the soul crushing brutality that must be endured en route to that better tomorrow.

The deft and understated in its magnificence, Holocene leaps eight places to secure a top five finish in the readers poll. Read our full thoughts on this soulful and slight wonder here.

I braced myself dogs abuse when placing Gotye in the upper echelon of the 411 countdown. I genuinely thought our readers might find the idea of having a one hit wonder in the top 10 absurd, but little did I know that they would rank the pained post-break-up angst of Somebody That I Used To Know even higher than I did!

Gotye and Robyn remain back to back, but have been bumped up a handful of positions. Robyns tears on the dancefloor act of defiance, Dancing On My Own, sits atop the aggregated song of the decade list (when all the critics lists are taken into consideration), so its no surprise to see Robyn triumphing on both 411 lists.

Kanye West and Runaway just misses out on being a consensus no.1. Read our full thoughts on Runaway here.

The readers vote was a two horse race between Runaway and Royals. Similar to Get Luckys appearance earlier earlier in this countdown, I am glad that the readers have recognised Lordes breakout hit single as the choice between bangers and profound album cuts was incredibly difficult to make. Royals is one of the defining anthems of the decade as Lorde ruminates on the strange disconnect between the glitz laden life thats sold to modern teenagers through pop and hip hop and the mundanity of their actual real world existence.

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A retrospective view of Ireland from the far Left: The Irish Catholic considers Navigating the Zeitgeist – Monthly Review

Posted: May 22, 2020 at 11:43 am

Navigating the Zeitgeist: A Story of the Cold War, the New Left, Irish Republicanism, and International Communism308 pp, $25 pbk, ISBN 978-1-58367-727-8By Helena Sheehan

Reviewed by Thomas J.Morrissey for The Irish Catholic

Dr Helena Sheehan is a well-known left-wing intellectual. Her book, Marxism and the Philosophy of Science: Critical History, published in 1985, became a classic work on its subject.

She has now written her autobiography, and this is the first volume, covering her life from the 1940s to the 1980s, a book which is full of interest for a particular view of Ireland and the world today.

She grew up in a middle class Catholic family in Philadelphia, attended a Catholic school, and was more developed intellectually and had more intellectual interests than most of her contemporaries.

She encountered doubts of faith, but struggled against them and felt called to religious life. She joined the Sisters of St Joseph. She describes the details and rigidity of convent life in the 1950s and the absence of any concession to change.

Noviceship

After the noviceship, she taught in a primary school, read widely, and became caught up in the sense of change that affected church and secular life. She attended the Jesuit University of St Joseph in Philadelphia, read widely in philosophy, seeking answers for her doubts by means of reason and philosophy.

The values of Vatican II, and her desire for a better and more just society influenced her teaching in school. Parents objected and she was let go. It was the final straw. She left the convent and, finding little support at home, left home and lived rough for some time.

Praying for light, without effect, and seeking to solve the mystery of God by reason, also without effect, she gave up religion.

She embraced the freedom movement of the late 1960s and 1970s revolting against war, seeking a free life style, living in communes, while also searching mentally for justice and meaning.

A striking, red haired woman, with capacity for passionate debate, she became well known in socialist circles. She found that she was searching for something that fulfilled as many aspect of life as Catholicism had done. She failed to find it in one outlet after another, and eventually turned to Marxism for solution.

Marxism and science became a preoccupation. She lived with a fellow socialist. They had two children. Following her desire for academic distinction in socialist philosophy, she was absent from home for months at a time, leaving her companion to look after the children.

She visited conferences across Europe, spent months in the Soviet Union but recoiled from its lack of freedom, then visited East Germany. There too she was welcomed as a committed socialist, but again found the regime too restrictive. She sought always liberation as part of the socialist answer.

In the 1970s she identified with the liberation movements in places such as Vietnam, Cuba, and Northern Ireland. She came to Ireland in the 1970s because of her Irish roots and to assist the liberation movement there.

She linked with members of the IRA, some of whom she had met in their visits to America, learned the Irish language, and eventually identified with the Irish Communist Party and the Official IRA, both of which had support from Moscow.

As in her dealings with socialist groups in America, Europe, and the Soviet countries, so too in Ireland, she wrote freely of people and groups in terms of their commitment to socialist principles and their attitude to her. She made enemies, but she made many friends. Her driving energy and intellectual ability was combined with an attractive personality.

In Ireland, her relationship with her American partner came to an end and she settled down with a well-known Irish communist.

She obtained part-time lecturing in Trinity College Dublin, and later a professorship in Dublin City University, where she taught the history of ideas and media studies.

She has published a significant number of books and articles on politics, culture and philosophy. As regards her children, her influence ensured that they did not become Catholics. In persuading others to be open minded, it is a pity that Helena Sheehan closes her own mind on the matter of religion in its largest sense.

This interesting, complicated, controversial and very honest book has one large deficiency: it does not have an index.

(c) The Irish Catholic, reprinted with permission

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‘Acts of Kindness Are Really Contagious.’ Historian Rutger Bregman Argues for a New Way of Thinking About Humanity – TIME

Posted: at 11:43 am

The world found out about Rutger Bregman in 2019 when, on a panel organized by TIME at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the Dutch historian lambasted businesspeople in the audience for trying to fix the world economy without talking about taxation. It feels like Im at a firefighters conference and no one is allowed to speak about water, he said.

Now, he has a new book out, titled Humankind, in which the unconventional historian tries to unravel even more of the conventional wisdom that, he says, actually stands on empirically shaky ground. Bregman spoke to TIME in March, while the coronavirus pandemic was spreading rapidly around the world.

Obviously I think Im right! The old fashioned realist position has been to assume that civilization is only a thin veneer, and that the moment theres a crisis we reveal our true selves, and it turns out that were all selfish animals. What Im trying to do in this book is to turn this narrative around, to show that actually, over thousands of years, people have actually evolved to be friendly.

Theres always selfish behavior. There are lots of examples of people hoarding. But weve seen in this pandemic that the vast majority of behavior from normal citizens is actually pro-social in nature. People are willing to help their neighbors. That is the bigger picture that were seeing right now.

I hope that the message of my book is extra relevant right now. Because its not only the virus that is contagious, but our behavior as well. If we assume that most people are fundamentally selfish, and if we design our response to this virus with that view of human nature, then were going to bring that out in people. Whereas, if we assume that most people are cooperative and want to help, then we can actually inspire other people. This may sound a bit cheesy, but theres actually a lot of psychological research that shows that acts of kindness are really contagious. They really spread throughout a social network, even influencing people who you dont know, who you havent seen.

The other thing this crisis shows very clearly is how dependent we are on certain professions. Around the globe, there are governments coming up with lists of so-called vital professions. If you look at those lists, you wont find the hedge fund managers or the marketeers or whatever. But youll find the garbage collectors and the teachers and the nurses, people who we often dont pay very well, but turn out to be people we cant live without. So just imagine what the influence of that could be for the longer term. Because theres now a whole generation growing up that will be impacted by this pandemic. Well all remember 2020 as an historic year. And for decades, people will be able to say, remember 2020. Remember when things were really tough. Who did we rely on? I think that could impact a whole generation.

I think everything starts with your view of human nature, because what you assume about other people is often what you get out of them. So if we assume that most people deep down are selfish and cannot be trusted, then youll start designing your institutions around that idea. And youll create exactly the kind of people that your view of human nature presupposes.

Im trying to redefine what the realist position is. I go over all this empirical evidence in my book, and I show that actually, what you see most in times of crisis is an explosion of altruism. Weve got more than 500 case studies of natural disasters from around the globe. And every single time sociologists and anthropologists find that its almost as if you push a reset button in peoples heads and they go back to their better selves. They will start helping each other. And this is the opposite of what weve been told for decades, for centuries even in Western culture, and what the news tells us every day.

Yes, but Im not part of the generation of the Cold War when the debate was all about capitalism versus communism or market versus state, right? I dont live in that binary world. Sometimes markets work best, sometimes the state has the best solution. During the Enlightenment, there were brilliant thinkers who realized that, if you assume most people are naturally selfish and you construct the market around that, sometimes it can actually work for the common good. I just think that in many cases, it went too far. What many economists forget is that this view of humanity, the so-called homo economicus, can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You could do pretty much everything in a different way. In maybe one of the most radical examples in my book, I look at how the prison system works in Norway. They basically give prisoners the freedom to do whatever they want, right? Often, they even have the key to their own cells. And youve got prisons there with cinemas and libraries where they can just relax around on a friendly basis with the guards. Now, if you look at that, from an American perspective, youre like, these people are totally crazy. But then if you look at it from a scientific perspective, you look at the recidivism rate, right? The odds that someone who has committed a crime commits another one once he gets out of prison. Well, the recidivism rate is very high in the U.S. its one of the highest rates in the world. But its the lowest in Norway. So actually the realist prison here is the Norwegian prison, where inmates are treated like humans and as adults, whereas many American prisons where inmates are often treated as animals, as beasts. At the moment those are taxpayer funded institutions to educate people for more criminal behavior. Thats basically what they are.

Well, this is the big question hanging over my whole book. We do terrible things that are not done by any animal in the animal kingdom. Theres never been a penguin that says, lets lock up a group of other penguins and exterminate them. These are singularly human crimes. We can get the beginning of an answer if we look at this theory from biology that people have evolved to be friendly, what they call the self-domestication theory. And the idea here from some biologists is that theres a dark side to that as well. Because, friendliness, wanting to fit into a group can sometimes stand in the way of justice and truth. We find it very hard not to be included in our own social groups, to go against the grain. You even find it with babies, studies show as young as three to six months old that they already seem to know the difference between good and evil, and they prefer the good but they also have xenophobic tendencies. Babies do not like unfamiliar sounds, unfamiliar faces. So this is a tribal button that can be pushed in our brain.

But if you watch a lot of Hollywood and Netflix series, you might get the impression that people find it really easy to commit violence against each other. Well, we actually know from psychological studies and from the history of warfare, that people find it really, really hard. For example, during the Second World War, its estimated that only around 15 to 20% of soldiers actually managed to fire their gun. When they had to look the enemy in the eye and pull the trigger, most of them couldnt do it, but that doesnt mean that you cant condition people to do it, you cant make them push a button of an artillery device or something so that they can kill people from the distance. So there are all kinds of technological and psychological means to get people to commit violence, but it is not deep in our nature. For most people, its actually really hard to do.

The other fascinating thing unique to humans is that we blush. How could this ever have been an evolutionary advantage that we involuntarily give away our deepest feelings? This shows that we evolved to cooperate. The thing is, this works really well on a small scale. Now, when we settled down, 10,000 years ago, and we first started living in villages and cities and doing agriculture, we also lost sight of each other, literally. And some of the things that we evolved for didnt work anymore. And I think its no coincidence that this is also the time in world history where you see the first wars breaking out. The reason is that the distance between people has increased.

And so obviously the simple solution that you come to if you want to do something against racism or prejudice or all these tribal instincts in our nature, the ultimate solution is obviously contact. People gotta meet each other.

Yeah, thats obviously the classic example. And in very diverse neighborhoods, most people wanted to stay within the E.U. And the same is actually the case during the Trump election in 2016. Neighborhoods with very little diversity voted for Trump. It is something that you should always keep in mind when you design your institutions, like schools. It matters so much that from a very early age we encounter different kinds of different people, because thats what real life should be about as well.

Im optimistic actually. I think to be honest, that were living through extraordinary times. The Zeitgeist is really shifting before our eyes. You have to remember that even Joe Bidens climate plan is more ambitious than Bernie Sanders climate plan was in 2016. Even Biden wants to have higher taxes on the rich. This has become the new normal right now. So I really think that, what they call the Overton window, you see it moving. And you really see it with taxes as well. So the worst period was 10 to 15 years ago, when we werent even talking about it.

Now of course, the coronavirus is changing everything. Maybe this can become a bigger movement that you could call some sort of a neo-realistic movement, right, with a new updated view of human nature. Maybe this will be the end of neoliberalism, the incredibly powerful idea that basically conquered the West since the 1970s. The ideology was that most people are selfish. Now, maybe we can move into a different era, because this whole idea that most people are selfish is simply unworkable during a pandemic. Im not predicting this will happen. Its just a hopeful scenario, that may be accelerated by this pandemic.

Well, actually, my book is all about the power of human beings collectively, right? So individually, we cant achieve much. Were not very smart and were not very strong. The strength of human beings only really comes out on a big scale. So the same is true for climate change. Were never gonna solve anything about climate change if we keep making it into this individualistic discussion. Im not saying that doesnt have a role. I mean, the personal is political. But I think the message of scientists right now is that as a society, we need to go through this huge transformation. And we need to do something thats never been done before in peacetime. Move to half emissions in 2030 and zero emissions in 2050. That means that radical is the new reality. Greta Thunberg is totally right about this. Were now going to a world that will be three degrees warmer. And thats the average prediction. It could be worse. Now, Im living in the Netherlands, where big parts of the country are meters below sea level. So Ive been interviewing experts who say, its not certain that our grandchildren can still live here in the 22nd century. Its not certain that we can save this country. And so the stakes are incredibly high. But then again, its technically feasible. And weve done similar things in the past. So its not impossible. But this shift in the Zeitgeist needs to speed up quite a bit more.

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Write to Billy Perrigo at billy.perrigo@time.com.

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'Acts of Kindness Are Really Contagious.' Historian Rutger Bregman Argues for a New Way of Thinking About Humanity - TIME

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My husband isnt working and its affecting our marriage – Albuquerque Journal

Posted: at 11:43 am

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Dear J.T. & Dale: My husband has been out of work for a year. He was always the main breadwinner in our family. In the past decade of his career, he found himself getting laid off two times in a row. He was at both jobs only two years when he had turned them around so much that they didnt need him anymore and thought they were overpaying for his services. As a result, he is really defeated. At this point, I am the top earner in our family and I absolutely love my work. That said, Im feeling a little angry with him. All he does is exercise and pursue his hobbies. Weve both worked our whole lives. When our kids were little, I even had a part-time job while I was the stay-at-home parent. So, I find it quite annoying that he is getting all this free time off, and I do not. I told him he has to get some type of job. Its getting to the point where its affecting our marriage. Any suggestions? I think hes going through a midlife crisis! Kathy

DALE: Your resentments are understandable. There was a time when working was optional for women, but thats never been true for men. Years ago, I heard someone say that while woman could think about whether to stay home or work part time or work full time, for men there were two choices work or prison. And thats still mostly true. There was a brief house-husband movement, but it didnt stick. Indeed, I believe the current zeitgeist is to look with suspicion on anyone of working age who isnt working. The good news is that the definition of work has become less rigid.

J.T.: I dont think your husbands situation is a midlife crisis so much as a midcareer crisis. Your husband built up his skills and specialties to the point that hes really only needed on a project basis at an organization. Once he gets everything situated, they can make do with less expensive employees. Even though he was a full-time employee, he really was a consultant, and his assignment essentially ended. Which is exactly what I would advise him to do he should consult with companies and charge them a great hourly rate. He would have to work only a few days a week and probably be close to the same pay he was making before. That way he can keep the flexibility and lifestyle hes currently enjoying and make you happy too. There are a lot of online organizations now that are offering contract work like this. One in particular is called GoCatalant.com. I recommended this website to lots of people in his situation, and theyve been quite successful in landing gigs. This could be exactly what he needs so that he can find a new level of work-life balance at this phase of his life.

Dear J.T. & Dale: About a month ago, the owner of my company bought himself a new car. Its expensive. Today, he held a meeting and announced we missed our quarterly earnings and there were no bonuses. People were seething. Is it right to speak up and mention the optics of the car in the wake of this information? Andres

J.T.: I wouldnt say anything. Just like how you choose to spend your income is your business, the same goes for your boss. I realize the optics arent good, but being the one to tell him that wont do your career any favors because hell likely assume that you are bringing it up because you feel that way too.

DALE: Yes, its not like the boss is going to give back the car and apologize. If confronted, your boss might even say that hes providing motivation to employees to work hard and succeed. So, instead of talking to him about his car, Id suggest that you ask him to mentor you, offering to be one of the employees who comes up with ideas to insure that the team exceeds the next quarterly goals.

Jeanine J.T. Tanner ODonnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site http://www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators Lab and author of a novel about H.R., The Weary Optimist. Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2020 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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The Notorious B.I.G.: The makings of the King of New York – REVOLT TV

Posted: at 11:43 am

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Rap royalty in 2020 is far more a seesawing subjectivity than it is a finite objectivity.

The fundamental considerations once applied to such status chart-topping hits, airwave domination, and irrefutable rap talent, to name a few seem somewhat obsolete when shaped up beside wavering internet popularity, arbitrary industry co-signs and trending topic spectacles of the contemporary hip hop ecosystem. The King of New York crown, however, is still held to qualifiable standards.

Is it momentous-to-monumental stardom like that of the Bronxs Cardi B? Does it call for total domination of a particular sound movement like the late Pop Smoke? Or, is it symbolic of tenure, critical acclaim, homage and exceptionality like JAY-Z? These requisites are still up for debate. But, the caliber can at least be measured by one household name who has preceded the King of New York reputation for over two decades: Christopher George Latore Wallace a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G., who creditably conquered these benchmarks, and then some.

Forever canonized in New Yorks cultural bedrock, Biggies organic climb to worldwide recognition, and now remembrance, is still one of the most compelling case studies of hip hop to date. His squalid Bed-Stuy hood of Brooklyn, New York reified his glaringly bleak, yet brilliantly masterful rap storytelling from as young as 17 years old. Biggie lived and lyricized stray bullet baby deaths, dope fiend gutters, crooked cop stickups, and slummed out playgrounds where most of his peers could only hope to survive.

Matched with this unassailable storytelling gift, sweatless flow on the mic and distinctively gruff baritone, Big was the fast-growing terror that none of his rap peers nor predecessors saw coming. The March 1992 publication of The Source magazine did, though, and properly magnify his artistry in its Unsigned Hype column for the rest of New Yorks rap assemblage to see. All four of his jams were basically a freestyle exhibition, The Source commended of his first untitled demo tape, which prompted his Unsigned Hype spotlight. Obviously, to come out as an MC takes a lot more than hype rhymes, but rhyme skills are the main ingredient to true success in hip hop, and when it comes to those, B-I-Gs got plenty.

From this visibility, Bigs reign proliferated into several music industry purviews. His Big Apple kingship was snowballing beneath him and becoming even more macroscopic among top music executive circles. His short-lived stint at Uptown Records quickly transformed into an inaugural and imprinted presence at Sean Diddy Combs then-newly-developed Bad Boy Records in 1993. It was only right, seeing as the former Uptown A&R had already invested sheer faith in this promisingly talented 21-year-old as raps next B.I.G. thing.

Bigs Bad Boy entryway amplified his demand in the urban music spaces feature artist pool too, another sign of his imminent rap domination. From Mary J. Blige to Michael Jackson, a Biggie verse was practically synonymous with a certified hit even if the track was already blasting up the charts. Craig Macks Flava In Ya Ear (Remix) and Totals Cant You See are still among two of Biggies best guest spots of all time, and during this era, solidified his position as a powerhouse lyricist. Hence, when the time came to unleash his now six-time platinum debut album, Ready To Die, the acclaim was already pending in the drafts of music critic reviews before the project even dropped.

The three main singles of the album Juicy, Big Poppa and One More Chance notched multiple placements on Billboard charts, most dominantly the Hot 100 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks. In its entirety, Ready To Die was likened to Ice Cubes Amerikkkas Most Wanted, a solo project exalted as one of the defining hip hop albums in the 90s artistic zeitgeist. What took some of his rap ancestors up to a decade to accomplish, Big roared through in roughly 24 months. This journey also included his spearheading and mentoring of hip hops hardcore spitters Junior M.A.F.I.A. Consequently, the success of the group levitated the solo career of trailblazing rap icon Lil Kim. Bigs allegiance from his peers and community became so widespread that he even gained unanimous support as commander-in-chief in the East Coast vs. West Coast rap warfare, which devastatingly ended in the deaths of himself and the West Coasts indubitable leader Tupac.

Between Bigs abundance of critically acclaimed awards and nominations including four Grammy nods and fructifying worldwide expansion, he became the imperial ruler of not only raps capital, but the entire East Coasts hip hop renaissance. That lionization engraved an array of gems into his crown and took on several honorable forms: The savior of East Coast hip hop, as designated by AllMusic; the greatest rapper who ever lived, as decided by Rolling Stone; and the No. 1 greatest rapper of all time, as established by Billboard. His second studio album, Life After Death (released posthumously), hit diamond status. Twenty three years after his murder, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A drive through Brooklyn easily turns into an outdoor Notorious B.I.G. museum tour, blanketed with murals and artwork featuring iterations of his face, lyrics and other likenesses. All of these distinctions are encompassed as a definitive blueprint of a card-carrying kings reign to be followed by the generations of rap after him.

To boot, Bigs competition among his territory was virtually nonexistent, barring Pac, the one coequal on the opposite end of his New York kingdom worthy enough to challenge him. As King of New York, Big moved with the respect, skill, following, material success, consistency, appeal and, ultimately, the authority to put up on the chess board. The new class of crown contenders and their reach for the throne collectively pale in comparison be it a facetious declaration like that of Kendrick Lamar on Control; a democratic decision like that which hails Pop Smoke; or an impudent self-proclamation like Tekashi 6ix9ines. As of late, the debate of who the crown belongs to and the criterion for such recognition is cracking headlines fandom wars and recent rap beefs. On the other hand, an overwhelming majority of votes still appear to lie with JAY-Z and Diddy, hip hops chief hyphenates among Bigs rap peers. But, their pivots to other objectives in the business and philanthropic spaces sometimes costs their removal from contemporary conversations and considerations.

Needless to say, the exclusion of two leading hip hop names shouldnt encourage loose usage of the title or a lowering of the bar for someone like 6ix9ine to jump above either. The next king may not have to churn out a diamond-certified album after six months of writers block or wipe out a clan of his rap nemeses in two verses. To the possible disgruntlement of hip hop heads in Biggies era, the crown just might adjust itself to modern times and factor in internet infamy and sweeping streaming numbers along with other nuances of millennial culture. There was, after all, never a handbook to complete nor a stage to walk across to earn the crown. There isnt even an amount of votes on a poll over who would determinately achieve the title.

But, the one certain touchstone for whoever is worthy enough to claw for it is that she or he will have B.I.G. shoes to fill.

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One last chance to binge-watch movies you’ve meant to watch – NOLA.com

Posted: May 11, 2020 at 10:44 am

The pandemic has been a perfect opportunity to catch up with backlogs of unwatched films or binge-watch new series. Its been a tough time for local cinemas, but some arthouse film distributors helped The Broad Theater and Zeitgeist Theater & Lounge by splitting $12 ticket fees with them if viewers used links from the theaters websites.

Both The Broad Theater and Zeitgeist air a special screening of Up from the Streets, a documentary about New Orleans music, and a portion of viewing fees goes to a fund set up by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation for musicians affected by the pandemic. The film is available May 15. The films executive producer is trumpeter Terence Blanchard, who will participate in a Q&A via Zoom on Saturday, May 16.

Also recently introduced by the New Orleans Film Society is a channel to view 40 films screened at the New Orleans Film Festival. Below are details about film screenings that benefit local theaters and cultural organizations.

"Bacurau." When townspeople in a remote area of Brazil notice their village has disappeared from the internet, it sets up a modern Western as the town sits on the lawless frontier of global forces. The Broad and Zeitgeist.

Here are some cyber activities and events you can do while social distancing.

"Corpus Christi." Nominated for a Best International Feature Oscar in 2020, this thriller from Poland follows a young man from prison to the pulpit, as he is mistaken for a priest sent to help a town in need. Zeitgeist.

"Crescendo." A famous director tries to build a youth orchestra of Israeli and Palestinian children. Zeitgeist.

"Extra Ordinary." In this paranormal comedy, Will Forte plays a washed-up rock star who needs to find a virgin to make a deal with the devil for another hit. The Broad andZeitgeist.

"From NOLA with Love." The New Orleans Film Festival offers online screenings of 40 feature and short films by local filmmakers from its 2019 event via its website. Visit https://nolalove.eventive.org for details and a film guide.

"LInnocente." Director Luchino Viscontis 1976 Italian film about libertine 19th-century aristocrats was restored and rereleased in 2020.Zeitgeist.

Some help to get you through the waning days of lockdown

"The Hottest August." This person-on-the-street documentary encounters New Yorkers talking about their daily lives and hopes and fears about the future. See page 25.Zeitgeist.

"Mossville When Great Trees Fall." The documentary follows the struggle for survival of a Louisiana community created by formerly enslaved people and free people of color that found itself surrounded by petrochemical plants. The Broad.

"New York International Childrens Film Festival." There are two slates of short animated and live action films, one for children ages 3 to 7 and one for ages 8 and older. Zeitgeist.

"Once Were Brothers." The documentary follows the rise and fall of Robbie Robertson and The Band. The Broad.

"Roar." Anyone who binge-watched Tiger King may be interested in this 1981 feature starring Tippi Hedron and Melanie Griffith about people living among lions, tigers and elephants. The Broad.

"Saint Maud." A nurse who recently converted to Catholicism fears that she is possessed in this British psychological horror film. The Broad.

"Satantango." A seven-hour work in the slow cinema movement, Bela Tarrs film follows the lives of former members of an agricultural collective after the fall of communism in Hungary. Zeitgeist.

"Up from the Streets." Director Michael Murphys exploration of New Orleans musical traditions includes interviews with Terence Blanchard, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Robert Plant, Sting and others. The Broad and Zeitgeist.

"Vitalina Varela." A sort of visual poem of shadows and framing, director Pedro Costas film is about a woman from Cape Verde traveling to Portugal, where her long separated husband has just died. Zeitgeist.

"Wild Goose Lake." In this film noir-esque crime thriller, small-time mobster Zhou Zenong tries to mitigate the damage to his wife and friends after he kills a cop while battling a rival gang. Zeitgeist.

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Joe Biden and the Moralizers – The Wall Street Journal

Posted: at 10:44 am

So much of our national politics looks like bread and circuses that one can miss important shifts in the political zeitgeist. Joe Bidens descent to the second circle of #MeToo hell may be one of them.

Yes, we are learning again the high price of double standards and hypocrisy, which are always with us. But while the Democrats bucket brigades throw water on the Biden-Reade wildfire, look over there at something else thats in flames. It is liberal progressivisms nearly hundred-year-old strategy of using moral condescension as a crude weapon against its enemies.

A distinction is necessary. Morality is about right and wrong. Moralitys insincere cousin is moralism, which grabs virtue off the shelf as needed. About every 20 or 30 years, the progressives come up with another moralized argument to delegitimize their opponents.

The most durable political weapon the progressives ever created was the notion that capitalism is immoral. This interpretation of private economic interests was popularized as far back as the 1930s with Matthew Josephsons The Robber Barons, a tendentious history of late-19th-century American entrepreneurs, whose title stuck as shorthand for capitalism.

The progressives positioned capitalism not merely as flawed but irredeemably immoral and requiring controlby them. President Franklin Roosevelt recognized what a potent and repeatable weapon this was, coining the campaign phrase the Ishmaels and the Insulls, whose hand is against everymans.

Moralism became a progressive go-to tactic in American political life because it constantly forced conservatives to issue denials of moral failure.

By now the appeal is virtually robotic. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer this week outputted his thoughts that Republican plans to give companies wrestling with coronavirus liability protection are going to help big CEOs, but not the workers.

Next came the great moral event of the centurys second halfthe civil rights movement. Once past the landmark laws of the mid-1960s, Democratic politicians quickly transformed even that into a moralistic weapon, routinely asserting that Republican policies would roll back the moral victories of that era.

Leave it to Joe Biden, looking more than ever like an innocent abroad, to resurrect his partys legacy of protecting Jim Crow when at a fundraiser he cited his good Senate relationship with Old-South Democrats Herman Talmadge of Georgia and James Eastland of Mississippi.

During Barack Obamas first high-minded presidential term, he gave speech after mocking speech about the wealthiest and the 1%. They came in like moralistic mortar rounds. In 2011, a liberal group ran a TV ad against Paul Ryan, then House Budget Committee chairman, depicting him throwing Grandma off the cliff with his proposed Medicare reforms.

Then, no longer content with isolating its opposition as its moral inferiors, the American left began to overreach. It targeted basic beliefs that had bipartisan support, such as the consensus about First Amendment free-speech protections. The campus speech codes arrived first but then came the mobs that shut down talks by conservative speakers, claiming they had moral justification for suppressing these speakers views on race, women and ... pretty much anything.

This was an important turning point. Previously progressive condescension at least operated inside traditional moral categories. In recent years, it has decided it could get away with displacing even agreed-on norms of right and wrong with entirely novel claims, such as demoting centuries of due process for the accused with believe the woman.

Standard measures of credibility devolved into credulousnessbut again, primarily in the interests of deploying the new rules as a political weapon. The ideas, or sentiments, were secondary.

The weaponizing of sexual-abuse accusations for the Brett Kavanaugh nomination was so over the top and evidence-free that many people eventually went numb on the subject.

Has the time finally come to agree the American system has waded into deep water by using cheap moralism as a political weapon? It wont change, not unless people in positions of leadership speak up.

Just because Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is reinstating due process in campus sexual misconduct proceedings doesnt mean liberals have to remain passive and silent. Former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman used to talk in clear terms about defending moral traditions, but the Democratic left drove him out of the party.

The Biden episode suggests that political moralism is losing its punch. Progressives will keep trying to intimidate their opponents this way because thats what they do. But nonstop media eventually sucks the energy out of everything these days, even its allies.

Other than the Democrats downloading pro forma support for Mr. Biden in hope of getting the vice presidential nomination, hardly anyone cares one way or the other about his guilt or innocence, or his accuser. The publics normal instincts of concern have been worn down into a cynical callousness. Can anyone count how many times Bernie Sanders called some part of American life a moral outrage?

What lies on the other side of the Biden double standard is no standard at all. We are getting close.

Write henninger@wsj.com.

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