Berfrois

August 2012

Alexander Hahn: 199 Visible Oranges

Alexander Hahn: 199 Visible Oranges

The merchant’s attractive display had been constructed very carefully. The pyramid has a triangular base of 12 oranges to a side. From each side of this triangle rises one of the sloping triangular faces of the pyramid. Each triangular face starts with its row of 12 and continues with...

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Imagine Your Audience

Imagine Your Audience

Le corps de ma brune puisque je l’aime comme ma chatte habillée en vert salade comme de la grêle c’est pareil, Joan Miró, 1925 From Poetry: I may not know what reviews are for, but I know who they are for: their readers. And it behooves reviewers to keep...

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“Darwin chose agnostic for tactical reasons”

“Darwin chose agnostic for tactical reasons”

He said the common man was not ready for atheism. There’s a lovely story the comedian Julia Sweeney tells about her own journey from devout Catholicism to atheism. After she’d finally decided she was an atheist, something appeared about it in the newspaper. Her mother phoned her in hysterics...

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Her story is not only about a receptionist…

Her story is not only about a receptionist…

Janet Groth at The New Yorker. Via by Joe Linker The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker, by Janet Groth, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 229 pp. The receptionist receives. Receives what? An education, a memoir. One purpose of a memoir, a narrative of memory, might be to...

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Email Trail of a Crisis

Email Trail of a Crisis

New York Stock Exchange. Photograph by Mario Tama/Getty Images by Jesse Eisinger and Jake Bernstein As ProPublica has been detailing for two years, Wall Street banks and the hedge fund Magnetar worked together to build mortgage-backed deals that the hedge fund also bet against. The more than $40 billion of...

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Chip’s Permanency

Chip’s Permanency

Heavenly Breakfast (1979) is a confessedly idealized account of a Lower East Side Manhattan commune that lasted through the winter of 1967-1968 -- Delany writes, “At the Breakfast I learned to move within the circle of other people's desire, and be at ease as I generated my own. And...

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The impeachment of Lugo was a very Paraguayan affair…

The impeachment of Lugo was a very Paraguayan affair…

Fernando Lugo by Peter Lambert On Thursday, 21 June 2012 the Paraguayan Chamber of Deputies voted 76-1 to impeach President Fernando Lugo on the grounds of poor performance of functions. The following day, following a brief debate, the Paraguayan Senate voted 39-4 to confirm the decision, thus bringing to...

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Exactly Backwards

Exactly Backwards

Small White Pebble Circles, Richard Long, 1987 by Jeffrey Frankel The world is seized by a debate between fiscal austerity and fiscal stimulus. Opponents of austerity worry about contractionary effects on the economy. Opponents of stimulus worry about indebtedness and moral hazard (see Corsetti 2012). Is austerity good or...

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‘Descartes gave us all that we needed to claim gender equality a long time ago’

‘Descartes gave us all that we needed to claim gender equality a long time ago’

Elisabeth Badinter by Cécile Alduy Forget Simone De Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, and Naomi Wolf. Descartes gave us all that we needed to claim gender equality a long time ago. Historians rarely remember it this way, but women’s rights were dramatically (if hypothetically) advanced when, in 1619, René Descartes, snow-bound...

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Peter Suber: Free and Open

Peter Suber: Free and Open

We all understand why free online music sharing is controversial. Musicians make a living by selling their work, and widespread unauthorized sharing could slash their revenue. File sharers respond with evidence that obscurity is more costly than piracy, for those below the rank of superstar, and that unauthorized online...

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Deborah Cameron defines online dictionaries

Deborah Cameron defines online dictionaries

The publisher Collins has recently adopted crowd-sourcing as a lexicographical tool, inviting members of the public to propose new words for its online dictionary. Some of their suggestions, like howlerious and crapalicious, are reminiscent of the Blackadder episode where Edmund torments Dr Johnson with a string of absurd neologisms.

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Suzanne Ruta: Photographing Algeria

Suzanne Ruta: Photographing Algeria

by Suzanne Ruta Picturing Algeria, by Pierre Bourdieu, forward by Craig Calhoun. Edited by Franz Schultheis and Christine Frisinghelli, Columbia University Press, 230 pp. Algeria, by Dirk Alvermann, Facsimile edition of a work first published in 1960. Steidl, Germany 2011 In 2004, just around the time the Abu Ghraib...

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Curiouser and Curiouser!

Curiouser and Curiouser!

“Alice sitting between Gryphon and Mock turtle”, John Tenniel, 1865. From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, 1865. by Albena Azmanova The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear....

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What Used to be Called Indology

What Used to be Called Indology

Any specialist on anything will have had that peculiar experience of coming across some casual comment from a total non-specialist about the very thing to which one has devoted one's life, a comment made as if there were no such thing as specialist knowledge, as if what we know...

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When Dittmer Met Séra

When Dittmer Met Séra

Ing Phouséra, or Séra, as he is known in artistic circles, is a French-Cambodian comics artist who evacuated Phnom Penh with his French mother in 1975. While the subject of his works range far and into other media, he came to my attention for his graphic novels about the...

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Ben Anderson: Quick, Emergency

Ben Anderson: Quick, Emergency

Prince George’s County Police Department Officers in a training exercise simulating a school shooting. by Ben Anderson Media reports suggest the first call to emergency services was made at 12.39am. Within 90 seconds, the parking lot of the Century 16 cinema in Aurora, USA was filled with around 25...

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Nicholas Rombes: Minecrafting Realism

Nicholas Rombes: Minecrafting Realism

Throughout his career, but especially in writings from the 1950s gathered together as the essay “The Evolution of the Language of Cinema,” film critic André Bazin praised the potential of the cinematic image “not according to what it adds to reality but what of it reveals of it.” And,...

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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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