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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Remembrance of Translations Past

Although Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff’s translation of À la recherche du temps perdu is considered by many journalists and writers to be the best...

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Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei: LGBT Struggles in Albania

This morning I woke up to a rather surprising headline: "first gay marriage in Tirana." The article referred to the marriage ceremony recently held...

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Feroz Rather in Srinagar

Though the war was still going on, it was not a terribly sad time in my life; at least, I had the consolation of...

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Foucault’s Politics of Truth by Stuart Elden

The key figures are Cardinal Richelieu and Chancellor Séguier, and Foucault thinks it is important that he can discern the “first great deployment of...

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Menachem Feuer on Sarah Silverman and Lena Dunham

Elle called Silverman’s image of her wearing a shirt with several naked Lena Dunhams a “beautiful tribute.” Dunham, the article tells us, “seemed to...

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Mediamacro are very good at pretending…

A few weeks ago I was having dinner with David Cameron. Well, almost - we were at the same restaurant but on tables at...

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Tammy Ho Lai-Ming: One Little Room

A room with graffitied walls. Inside this room the dogs bark. A room cluttered with porcelain figurines. A room decorated with binary numbers.

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Jeremy Fernando
Jeremy Fernando on Tan Chui Mui

For, it is not as if films speak; nor are their filmmakers there—at the site where this alleged speaking to, speech, takes place —...

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David Beer
David Beer: Make Happy, Happy, Happy

As I read through William Davies’ engaging new book, I can’t help but wonder what Mad Men’s Don Draper would have made of John...

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Russell Bennetts: Coffee for 8 More

I might be the last person you should ask about St. Paul coffee in general. On an ordinary day I make do with drip...

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Emeline Edgewood
In X the Promise

X seems to want to be both the equivalent of The Giant and of Laura Palmer’s mother in Twin Peaks.

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Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei: Municipal

Although there are also some independent candidates who may take a few votes here and there, the general opinion of the Tirana public and...

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En Liang Khong: Full Bloom

The cross-dressing Qiu Jin was emblematic of a revolutionary feminist current at the end of the Qing era, writing urgently on women’s emancipation: “While...

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Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
Very Much Like a Whale by Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei

They had obviously taken the pictures of the whale, and the group of people carrying it, out of curiosity. But still the images failed...

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