Berfrois

May 2012

Stand Up For Chairs

Stand Up For Chairs

Gauguin’s Chair, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888 From Jacobin: If you hang out with industrial designers, one thing you may have noticed is that they’re really into chairs. In fact, tastes are predictable enough that you can often tell a designer’s favorite chair maker from his or her shirt. Black...

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Afghanistan’s Ever Changing Warfare by Rob Johnson

Afghanistan’s Ever Changing Warfare by Rob Johnson

Afghanistan is a land of paradox. The investment that has been poured into the country by the West in the last decade will be the largest in Afghanistan’s history, and yet a portion of its people are engaged in a protracted insurgency that squanders this golden opportunity.

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How to Thrive in the Expanding Electronic Scholarly Domain

How to Thrive in the Expanding Electronic Scholarly Domain

The Library of Babel, Eric Desmazieres by Sheila Cavanagh It’s no secret that times are tough for scholars in the humanities. Jobs are scarce, resources are stretched, and institutions of tertiary education are facing untold challenges. Those of us fortunate enough to hold tenured positions at financially stable colleges...

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Race: Caucasian (Not So)

Race: Caucasian (Not So)

by Justin E. H. Smith I don’t know why all these racists are worried about Caucasians being reduced to a minority in Georgia as a result of demographic shifts. In fact it’s logically certain that Caucasians will always be the majority in Georgia: if one is Georgian, ipso facto...

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David Winters: Outside the Oulipo

David Winters: Outside the Oulipo

For over fifty years now, the (mostly) French phenomenon known as the Oulipo (short for Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, or ‘Workshop for Potential Literature’) has been baffling and enthralling readers everywhere with its array of opaque literary techniques. Founded in 1960 as a subcommittee of the even more enigmatic...

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Facebook Search to Launch in 2013

Facebook Search to Launch in 2013

Facebook headquarters, California by Mike Malley Facebook are due to launch their own search engine in early 2013, according to a source at the Californian company. An official announcement is likely in the next 24 hours as Mark Zuckerberg seeks to ramp up the hype for their IPO on...

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Obviously, the existence of Adam and Eve is entirely negated by modern paleoanthropology…

Obviously, the existence of Adam and Eve is entirely negated by modern paleoanthropology…

The Monkey Painter, Alexandre Gabriel Ducamps, 1833 by Michael Ruse I understand that a contributor to the New Republic has deemed Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions, the worst book of 2011. This reaction is understandable. There is an irritating jauntiness about the work,...

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“I took the transmission of the shelves”

“I took the transmission of the shelves”

Jonathan Lethem From The Believer: The Believer: When did you first start collecting books? Jonathan Lethem: It really begins with my walking into a shop, one that’s a big part of my life history: Brazen Head Books, on Atlantic Avenue. I was fourteen, and the place was a really...

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Glittering Game Boards

Glittering Game Boards

The formula of the "99 percent" seems at once incredibly rhetorical and real. We are used to hyperbole; we are less used to an absurdly lopsided figure that is actually matched by a reality. Poetic figuration meets statistical validity.

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Not Flowers

Not Flowers

Marianne Moore throwing a pitch, 1968 From Poetry: She has no heirs. She has several epigones but their detail-laden lacquered ships for me don’t float. She flares singular, exemplary, a diamond absolute the American East forged in a pressure chamber we have yet fully to excavate. It is said...

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‘A flying carpet is lying in wait in Berlin’

‘A flying carpet is lying in wait in Berlin’

From the Roads to Arabia exhibition, Pergamon Museum, Berlin From Sign and Sight: Archaeological exhibitions at Berlin’s Pergamon Museum have had an unprecedentedly successful year. “Tell Halaf” attracted 750,000 visitors, “Pergamon” sold 250,000 tickets in just two months and “Roads of Arabia” opened on January 26th. The more confusing...

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We Hear the Sound of Splashing

We Hear the Sound of Splashing

From Trainspotting, Miramax, 1996 by Julian Hanich In this essay I try to categorize the range of artistic options that filmmakers currently have at hand to evoke bodily disgust. Or, to reframe this approach in a slightly different manner: If we examine the variety of disgusting scenes...

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Harpo’s Silence: Berfrois Interviews Wayne Koestenbaum

Harpo’s Silence: Berfrois Interviews Wayne Koestenbaum

Humiliation opens with a strip search; Harpo’s “fragile” rear (remember, in The Big Store, a sign saying “Fragile” finds itself on his buttocks) may not cause him shame (indeed, he seems humiliation-proof), but he travels within shame’s dirty circuit. He dives without embarrassment into situations and actions that would cause a...

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Utopianism is what the landlords have time for…

Utopianism is what the landlords have time for…

The Land of Cockaigne, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1567 From New Left Review: The diagnosis first: To put it briefly . . . What will never again be built any more, cannot be built any more, is—a society, in the old sense of that word; to build such, everything...

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Alleyfoxes

Alleyfoxes

Alleycat race in London. Photograph by Rakan From N+1: On his last day of work as a bicycle messenger, my brother organized a race. Messenger races, known as alleycats, usually consist of straightforward if anarchic runs across the city. A raggle-taggle peloton will gather at some anonymous starting point,...

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John Gaffney: Sarkalimero

John Gaffney: Sarkalimero

There’s a cartoon character that all French children watched in the '70s and ‘80s, Calimero. He was a little black chick who, ever provoking trouble, always ended up defeated and complaining, “it’s really so unfair!” when in reality, he was usually the architect of his own misfortunes. At times,...

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Quebecers United Against the ‘Business World’

Quebecers United Against the ‘Business World’

Student protest in Quebec, March 22, 2012. Photograph by Tina Mailhot-Roberge by Justin E. H. Smith On April 23, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Lilian Radovac aptly described the past few months of upheaval across Quebec as “the biggest student uprising you’ve never heard of.” This movement,...

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Might not the psyche of writer and reader mesh powerfully in quarrel?

Might not the psyche of writer and reader mesh powerfully in quarrel?

From The New York Review of Books: Like Hardy, Lawrence’s writing is extremely sensitive to issues of fear and courage. In Sons and Lovers the moral veto that Miriam places on sex before marriage is “unmasked” by her boyfriend Paul as merely fear finding an alibi in moral convention....

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What should Europe’s intellectuals be doing?

What should Europe’s intellectuals be doing?

Towards the end of last year, as the Eurozone crisis was reaching (yet another) climax, a number of journalists in the German quality press alerted their readers to an aspect of the crisis which had received scant attention so far: the euro crisis marked not only the failure of...

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“Reading”

“Reading”

The Reading Girl, Theodore Roussel, 1886 by Bill Benzon This post includes major sections from two posts I wrote in 2005 when I first began writing for The Valve: Learning to Read & the Need for Theory and Beyond Reading. The first generated extensive discussion that’s worth reading if...

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Joseph Spece
Joseph Spece: When Gamers Attack

Like many ugly controversies, the beginnings of #gamergate are linked to the end of love — well, the end of a relationship, at least....

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Jeremy Fernando: Not

A response — Bartleby’s response — foregrounding the fact that it is the “I” that “prefers not to”: not that ‘I cannot’ nor ‘I...

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Owen Vince on HARK

As a poet, you are your grandmother; you are browsing the obituaries with a red pen and an address book in your hand. The...

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Jay Aquinas Thompson Interviews Eric Weisbard

Eric Weisbard wrote twenty years ago, introducing the voluminous, era-summarizing, contrarian and contradictory Spin Alternative Record Guide.

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Collective Destruction by Keith Doubt

What, then, is sociocide? Sociocide resonates with the term demodernization formulated by A. V. Tishkov to account for the consequences of the war in...

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Heather Lang on Fiona Sampson and Sarah Morgan

Poet Fiona Sampson is a former career violinist, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, overt references to music appear in her work.

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Setsuko Adachi: Azalea Exuberance Strikes

In May, in the garden of the elevated house at the bottom of the hill, four shrubs of stunning azaleas come into full blossom....

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Joe Linker
Joe Linker on Li Po

Florence showed me what she called the most famous of Chinese poems. She had made her own translation from a Chinese language newspaper clipping....

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Teresa K. Miller and Gregory Giles Discuss Luc Moullet

To begin at the end: After nearly two hours exploring facets of exploitation in the globalized food system, Luc Moullet closes Genèse d’un repas/Origins...

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Adam Staley Groves: Iowa Nasty

Now it seems the state’s radical conservatives are degrading the historic, populist-provincial mentality of Iowa; they are revising the state’s legacy within the broader...

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Animal Spirits at the Nueva Burdalesa Bakery by Jessica Sequeira

A few years ago all I had was a certain ambition and an understanding, more or less, of how things work in this world....

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Sebastian Normandin
Meaning and Pseudoscience by Sebastian Normandin

The persistence and proliferation of pseudoscientific thinking in contemporary culture demands explanation. Clearly there are some pragmatic reasons for its expanded existence, and people...

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Janice Lee For the Ghost

The memories are like stutters. Sometimes I inhale for air, and exhale a shaking chain of memories. A choking hazard. I for the ghost....

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Edi Rama’s Bunker Mentality by Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei

As many former Eastern Block countries in the EU display a hardly dissimulated form of racism and religious hatred, Albania, always a little behind...

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