Berfrois

March 2012

Patrick Downey on Jack “Legs” Diamond

Patrick Downey on Jack “Legs” Diamond

Jack “Legs” Diamond is little remembered today, but for the last eighteen months of his life he rivaled Al Capone as the most famous gangster in Prohibition Era America. Whereas Capone was famous for being the CEO of the largest criminal enterprise in the U.S., Jack was famous for...

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A Tale of Strychnine and Murder

A Tale of Strychnine and Murder

From cover of The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie, 1920 by Deborah Blum There is altogether too much strychnine about this case - The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie, 1920. In the midst of World War I – or so the story goes – a young Englishwoman...

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What if, in the end, Lawrence v. Texas was a whodidn’t?

What if, in the end, Lawrence v. Texas was a whodidn’t?

Tyron Garner and John Geddes Lawrence From The New Yorker: In 2003, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Lawrence v. Texas, ruling, by a six-to-three margin, that anti-sodomy laws were unconstitutional. Even those of us who followed the case had a rather gauzy notion of what...

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Gambling? In Atlantic City?

Gambling? In Atlantic City?

Joel Dias-Porter From Poetry: As you cruise north on New Jersey’s Atlantic Avenue, through the drowsy, middle-class shore towns of Margate and Ventnor, the ice cream parlors and bike shops slowly give way to tattoo parlors, law offices, and pawnshops with “Money to Lend” signs. Imagine The Wire by...

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Jason Dittmer: The Philosophy of Comics

Jason Dittmer: The Philosophy of Comics

The Art of Comics bills itself as the “first-ever collection of essays published in English devoted to the philosophical questions raised by the art of comics”. This much-qualified claim is certainly true, and I have waited anxiously for its publication since I first learned it was in production. Aaron...

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“Aeronautical engineer”

“Aeronautical engineer”

E. L. Doctorow From The Days of Yore: Cautious at first, Doctorow opens up with a warm and steady chuckle, seeming to surprise himself by his own candor. Did you have a sense when you were very young that a writer was something one could be – and did...

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Glossy Chronicles

Glossy Chronicles

From The American Scholar: The first readers to comment on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Crack-Up” essays made no pretense to literary criticism. They just wanted to dish—and diss. The dismay of old or former or soon-to-be-former friends came at Fitzgerald fast and furious, along with smack-downs from those critics who...

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China in a Very Fast World: Berfrois Interviews Dan Breznitz

China in a Very Fast World: Berfrois Interviews Dan Breznitz

China shines by keeping its industrial production and service industries in perfect tandem with the technological frontier. Like the Red Queen, it runs as fast as possible in order to remain at the cusp of the global technology frontier, while not actually advancing the frontier itself.

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CAPITALISM

CAPITALISM

by Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei and Jonas Staal Introduction The following two works were produced by visual artist Jonas Staal and writer Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei during a visit as artists in residence at The Bag Factory, Johannesburg, South Africa during the summer of 2010. Both works...

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Meaghan Emery on The Artist

Meaghan Emery on The Artist

Every once in a while a film comes out that breaks through conventional wisdom. The idea that a black and white silent film in 2011 could be such a resounding critical and commercial success, in addition to its prominence in international film festivals, six Césars, and now five Academy...

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‘Pop songs are deeply monological’

‘Pop songs are deeply monological’

The Human League by Enrique Lima Although this seems self-evident it’s worth explaining. As Bakhtin long ago observed, novels are heteroglossic. That is, although one consciousness or voice may dominate narration, the novel is compelled by its own philosophical-formal orientation to include other voices. I’ll mention just a couple...

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In New York, a city of heavy drinkers, Theodore Roosevelt’s diligence didn’t go down easily…

In New York, a city of heavy drinkers, Theodore Roosevelt’s diligence didn’t go down easily…

Tom and Jerry’s Bar, New York City, 1890s From Barnes and Noble Review: In the 1890s, New York “reigned as the vice capital of the United States, dangling more opportunities for prostitution, gambling, and all-night drinking” than any other American city, explains Zacks, author of History Laid Bare and...

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Neil Besner: Where Rivers Meet

Neil Besner: Where Rivers Meet

What is a map, and which maps are memory’s or imagination’s to invoke, and then how? What lies in the incantatory power of names, or in the pull North or South, West or East? What is time, what is memory, and what’s imagined about these plain facts here, or...

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Picked His Pitches

Picked His Pitches

Photograph by Tom Flynn by Eli S. Evans I was on my way home to Milwaukee for the weekend, somewhere in that brief stretch of no man’s land that separates the casino town of Dubuque, Iowa from the Wisconsin state line, when 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun, whose...

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Horror films have never been all that friendly to women…

Horror films have never been all that friendly to women…

A Nightmare on Elm Street, New Line Cinema, 1984 From The Believer: Horror franchises’ relationship to violence doesn’t always outwardly have something to teach us. Throw gender into the works—specifically, the female gender—and the results seem less than thought-provoking. Indeed, you might begin to question why you watch these...

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Jennifer Rhee: Our Friends, the Killer Robots

Jennifer Rhee: Our Friends, the Killer Robots

Defending Yourself against the Coming Rebellion (2005) offers a survey of the “quickening” developments in contemporary robotics research, from humanoid robots, to smart houses, to robot swarms, to unmanned air and land vehicles.

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Continued Enrichment?

Continued Enrichment?

IR40 Heavy Water reactor facility, near Arak, Iran From Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: The criticism that Obama drew for his subdued response begs the question of whether the Green Movement actually wanted his vocal support. Gauging the views of movement leaders, Parsi determines that, at the height of...

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Logan K. Young on The Replacements

I, myself, was barely six months old when Twin/Tone put out The Mats’ Let It Be. The day, they say, was Orwellian: Tuesday, October...

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Tyranny Is a Growth Industry by Vladimir Savich and Zachary Bos

Tyranny is a growth industry. Each day brings exciting new developments. These events imprint themselves upon the world in the form of newspapers, magazines,...

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Tjoa Shze Hui: 1920s

Of the many witticisms that make up The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, one voiced by Picasso really gets under the skin. He says...

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Elias Tezapsidis on Lorentzen, Batuman, Lerner, Smallwood and Stein

Contemporary narrators feel entitled to their own realities now more than ever. The internet has created this fascinating binary, one in which individuals can...

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Henry Giardina on Bob Hope

All mythical creatures need an origin story. The Bob Hope character springs into being, Athena-like, from out of the head of Preston Sturges in...

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Mattilda B. Sycamore: Yearning From Spurning

One problem with gentrification is that it always gets worse. But then I go into a Hooters, and it’s a vintage clothing store. A...

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Alexander McGregor
Alexander McGregor: Trauma

Following World War II, the German philosopher Theodor Adorno wrote, “Nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht zu schreiben, ist barbarisch”: to write poetry after Auschwitz is...

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John Crutchfield: Chords

But music, even bad music, is a symptom of hope, is it not? Naturally one would prefer the music to be good, but any...

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Menachem Feuer on Robin Williams

Regardless of whether you are from Europe, the United States, Asia, or Africa, we can all agree that there is something special about the...

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Reality Principles: Berfrois Interviews Frank Smecker

I don't know if I ever wanted to become a theorist. I struggle with this position. For me, it's a hystericized — and therefore...

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Albert Rolls: Which (Side) Are You On, Man?

James Parker begins his review of Inherent Vice with the quip, “If Thomas Pynchon were a stand-up comedian, and Inherent Vice his newest routine,...

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Keith Doubt
Keith Doubt on Serbia

The intellectual integrity of cultural anthropology is based largely on its commitment to cultural relativism as a principled notion. Cultural relativism is the principle...

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A Gosse in Woolf’s Clothing by Andre Gerard

On May 31, two weeks after his death, and the day before Orlando was sent to the printer, Woolf noted his death as follows:...

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Andrew Gallix: Let’s Go!

Retro-futurism, as we now call it, came out of the closet in the late '70s due to the widespread feeling that there was indeed...

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