black holes and gray matter. in one thousand tangos.

             
“She came into Baghdad after months in one of the world’s most forbidding deserts, a stoic, diminutive 45-year-old English woman with her small band of men. She had been through lawless lands, held at gunpoint by robbers, taken prisoner in a city that no Westerner had seen for 20 years.
It was a hundred years ago, a few months before the outbreak of World War I. Baghdad was under a regime loyal to the Ottoman Turks. The Turkish authorities in Constantinople had reluctantly given the persistent woman permission to embark on her desert odyssey, believing her to be an archaeologist and Arab scholar, as well as being a species of lunatic English explorer that they had seen before.
She was, in fact, a spy and her British masters had told her that if she got into trouble they would disclaim responsibility for her. Less than 10 years later Gertrude Bell would be back in Baghdad, having rigged an election, installed a king loyal to the British, re-organized the government, and fixed the borders on the map of a new Iraq. As much as anyone can be, Gertrude Bell could be said to have devised the country that nobody can make work as a country for very long—no more so than now.”
Gertrude of Arabia, the Woman Who Invented Iraq

She came into Baghdad after months in one of the world’s most forbidding deserts, a stoic, diminutive 45-year-old English woman with her small band of men. She had been through lawless lands, held at gunpoint by robbers, taken prisoner in a city that no Westerner had seen for 20 years.

It was a hundred years ago, a few months before the outbreak of World War I. Baghdad was under a regime loyal to the Ottoman Turks. The Turkish authorities in Constantinople had reluctantly given the persistent woman permission to embark on her desert odyssey, believing her to be an archaeologist and Arab scholar, as well as being a species of lunatic English explorer that they had seen before.

She was, in fact, a spy and her British masters had told her that if she got into trouble they would disclaim responsibility for her. Less than 10 years later Gertrude Bell would be back in Baghdad, having rigged an election, installed a king loyal to the British, re-organized the government, and fixed the borders on the map of a new Iraq. As much as anyone can be, Gertrude Bell could be said to have devised the country that nobody can make work as a country for very long—no more so than now.”

Gertrude of Arabia, the Woman Who Invented Iraq

“As this year’s summer vacation begins, many parents contemplate how to rein in their kids. But there was a time when Americans pushed in the opposite direction, preserved in Mark Twain’s cat-swinging scamps. Parents back then encouraged kids to get some wildness out of their system, to express the republic’s revolutionary values.
American children of the 19th century had a reputation. Returning British visitors reported on American kids who showed no respect, who swore and fought, who appeared — at age 10 — “calling for liquor at the bar, or puffing a cigar in the streets,” as one wrote. There were really no children in 19th-century America, travelers often claimed, only “small stuck-up caricatures of men and women.”
This was not a “carefree” nation, too rough-hewed to teach proper manners; adults deliberately chose to express new values by raising “go-ahead” boys and girls. The result mixed democracy and mob rule, assertiveness and cruelty, sudden freedom and strict boundaries.
Visitors noted how American fathers would brag that their disobedient children were actually “young republicans,” liberated from old hierarchies. Children were still expected to be deferential to elders, but many were trained to embody their nation’s revolutionary virtues. “The theory of the equality” was present at the ballot box, according to one sympathetic Englishman, but “rampant in the nursery.”
Boys, in particular, spent their childhoods in a rowdy outdoor subculture. After age 5 or so they needed little attention from their mothers, but were not big enough to help their fathers work. So until age 10 or 12 they spent much of their time playing or fighting. …
Left to their own devices, boys learned an assertive style that shaped their futures. The story of every 19th-century empire builder — Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt — seems to begin with a striving 10-year-old. “Boy culture” offered training for the challenges of American manhood and a reprieve before a life of labor.
But these unsupervised boys also formed gangs that harassed the mentally ill, the handicapped and racial and ethnic minorities. Boys played an outsize role in the anti-Irish pogroms in 1840s Philadelphia, the brutal New York City draft riots targeting African-Americans during the Civil War and attacks on Chinese laborers in Gilded Age California. These children did not invent the bigotry rampant in white America, but their unrestrained upbringing let them enact what their parents mostly muttered.
Their sisters followed a different path. Girls were usually assigned more of their mothers’ tasks. An 8-year-old girl would be expected to help with the wash or other physically demanding tasks, while her brother might simply be too small, too slow or too annoying to drive the plow with his father. But despite their drudgery, 19th-century American girls still found time for tree climbing, bonfire building and waterfall-jumping antics. There were few pretty pink princesses in 19th-century America: Girls were too rowdy and too republican for that.
So how did we get from “democratic sucklings” to helicopter parents? Though many point to a rise of parental worrying after the 1970s, this was an incremental change in a movement that began a hundred years earlier.”
Read on: The Wild Children of Yesteryear

As this year’s summer vacation begins, many parents contemplate how to rein in their kids. But there was a time when Americans pushed in the opposite direction, preserved in Mark Twain’s cat-swinging scamps. Parents back then encouraged kids to get some wildness out of their system, to express the republic’s revolutionary values.

American children of the 19th century had a reputation. Returning British visitors reported on American kids who showed no respect, who swore and fought, who appeared — at age 10 — “calling for liquor at the bar, or puffing a cigar in the streets,” as one wrote. There were really no children in 19th-century America, travelers often claimed, only “small stuck-up caricatures of men and women.”

This was not a “carefree” nation, too rough-hewed to teach proper manners; adults deliberately chose to express new values by raising “go-ahead” boys and girls. The result mixed democracy and mob rule, assertiveness and cruelty, sudden freedom and strict boundaries.

Visitors noted how American fathers would brag that their disobedient children were actually “young republicans,” liberated from old hierarchies. Children were still expected to be deferential to elders, but many were trained to embody their nation’s revolutionary virtues. “The theory of the equality” was present at the ballot box, according to one sympathetic Englishman, but “rampant in the nursery.”

Boys, in particular, spent their childhoods in a rowdy outdoor subculture. After age 5 or so they needed little attention from their mothers, but were not big enough to help their fathers work. So until age 10 or 12 they spent much of their time playing or fighting. …

Left to their own devices, boys learned an assertive style that shaped their futures. The story of every 19th-century empire builder — Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt — seems to begin with a striving 10-year-old. “Boy culture” offered training for the challenges of American manhood and a reprieve before a life of labor.

But these unsupervised boys also formed gangs that harassed the mentally ill, the handicapped and racial and ethnic minorities. Boys played an outsize role in the anti-Irish pogroms in 1840s Philadelphia, the brutal New York City draft riots targeting African-Americans during the Civil War and attacks on Chinese laborers in Gilded Age California. These children did not invent the bigotry rampant in white America, but their unrestrained upbringing let them enact what their parents mostly muttered.

Their sisters followed a different path. Girls were usually assigned more of their mothers’ tasks. An 8-year-old girl would be expected to help with the wash or other physically demanding tasks, while her brother might simply be too small, too slow or too annoying to drive the plow with his father. But despite their drudgery, 19th-century American girls still found time for tree climbing, bonfire building and waterfall-jumping antics. There were few pretty pink princesses in 19th-century America: Girls were too rowdy and too republican for that.

So how did we get from “democratic sucklings” to helicopter parents? Though many point to a rise of parental worrying after the 1970s, this was an incremental change in a movement that began a hundred years earlier.”

Read on: The Wild Children of Yesteryear

“Can I start this essay by asking a rhetorical question? Have you heard of black cool? It used to be something ineffable but indisputable. 
Certain African-American cultural figures — in music, in movies, in sports — rose above what was manifestly a divided, unjust society and in the process managed to seem singularly unruffled. They kept themselves together by holding themselves slightly apart, maintaining an air of inscrutability, of not quite being known. They were cool. …

And black cool, when it comes right down to it, is everyone’s cool. The baseline of the concept, in vernacular terms, in historical terms, is black. Black is the gold standard for cool, and you don’t need to look any further than the coolest thing of the last century, rock and roll, to see the ways in which white culture clearly sensed that the road to cool involved borrowing from black culture. But black cool is at a crossroads, unless it’s at the end of the road. The dynamics that historically produced black cool within the American landscape have shifted, allowing some things to be pushed to the side and others to fall through the cracks.”
“Cool doesn’t mean a lack of temperature, exactly. It doesn’t mean low affect or indifference. It means cool heat, intensity held in check by reserves of self-possession. … As a result, in any display of cool, there is a slight hint of threat. What if the mask is lifted and the heat released? That threat can be physical or sexual or intellectual, but it’s always felt.”
“These days, the vast majority of hip-hop artists follow a script because they’re trying to succeed in a game whose rules are clear….American hip-hop is usually based on imitation, and it is meant to produce artists who are users of the existing tradition, not creators. And because of that, black culture in general — which has defaulted into hip-hop — is no longer perceived as an interesting vanguard, as a source of potential disruption or a challenge to the dominant. It might be worth watching if nothing else is on, but you don’t need to keep an eye on it. And that leads to a more distressing question, not rhetorical this time: Once you don’t have a cool factor any longer — when cool gets decoupled from African-American culture — what happens to the way that black people are seen?”

"Why haven’t any current cultural figures completely and successfully replaced the icons of the past in the Pantheon of cool? Here, finally, we have come to another rhetorical question. These days, increasingly, black cool is a Ponzi scheme that revolves around a couple of people, disingenuously at best. Everyone pays tribute to those tip-top hip-hop stars, but their cachet comes from their celebrity, and their predictable devotion to it. Do they embody black cool in the traditional sense? I don’t think they can. I don’t think any of us can. The cultural landscape now is about winning, not taking the extra beat to think your way around a problem. Today’s hip-hop stars may be the Federal Reserve of black cultural cachet, but these days they’re just printing money whose value has long ago diminished. And that’s not cool."
Questlove: How Hip-Hop Failed Black America, Part III (II, I)

Can I start this essay by asking a rhetorical question? Have you heard of black cool? It used to be something ineffable but indisputable.

Certain African-American cultural figures — in music, in movies, in sports — rose above what was manifestly a divided, unjust society and in the process managed to seem singularly unruffled. They kept themselves together by holding themselves slightly apart, maintaining an air of inscrutability, of not quite being known. They were cool. …

And black cool, when it comes right down to it, is everyone’s cool. The baseline of the concept, in vernacular terms, in historical terms, is black. Black is the gold standard for cool, and you don’t need to look any further than the coolest thing of the last century, rock and roll, to see the ways in which white culture clearly sensed that the road to cool involved borrowing from black culture. But black cool is at a crossroads, unless it’s at the end of the road. The dynamics that historically produced black cool within the American landscape have shifted, allowing some things to be pushed to the side and others to fall through the cracks.”

Cool doesn’t mean a lack of temperature, exactly. It doesn’t mean low affect or indifference. It means cool heat, intensity held in check by reserves of self-possession. … As a result, in any display of cool, there is a slight hint of threat. What if the mask is lifted and the heat released? That threat can be physical or sexual or intellectual, but it’s always felt.”

These days, the vast majority of hip-hop artists follow a script because they’re trying to succeed in a game whose rules are clear….American hip-hop is usually based on imitation, and it is meant to produce artists who are users of the existing tradition, not creators. And because of that, black culture in general — which has defaulted into hip-hop — is no longer perceived as an interesting vanguard, as a source of potential disruption or a challenge to the dominant. It might be worth watching if nothing else is on, but you don’t need to keep an eye on it. And that leads to a more distressing question, not rhetorical this time: Once you don’t have a cool factor any longer — when cool gets decoupled from African-American culture — what happens to the way that black people are seen?”

"Why haven’t any current cultural figures completely and successfully replaced the icons of the past in the Pantheon of cool? Here, finally, we have come to another rhetorical question. These days, increasingly, black cool is a Ponzi scheme that revolves around a couple of people, disingenuously at best. Everyone pays tribute to those tip-top hip-hop stars, but their cachet comes from their celebrity, and their predictable devotion to it. Do they embody black cool in the traditional sense? I don’t think they can. I don’t think any of us can. The cultural landscape now is about winning, not taking the extra beat to think your way around a problem. Today’s hip-hop stars may be the Federal Reserve of black cultural cachet, but these days they’re just printing money whose value has long ago diminished. And that’s not cool."

Questlove: How Hip-Hop Failed Black America, Part III (II, I)

What was once an ash heap in Corona, Queens, became the site of the 1939 World’s Fair. Its avenues, in turn, provided the layout for the 1964 World’s Fair. …A few structures from the fair stand in good condition; others have fallen into disrepair; and still others have been reinvented.

Shea Stadium. Opened five days before the World’s Fair in 1964, it became the home of the New York Mets and the New York Jets. On Aug. 15, 1965, the Beatles played a 30-minute set before 55,000 screaming fans. The stadium was torn down in 2009 and turned into a parking lot; Citi Field, the new home of the Mets, was built next door.

Singer Bowl. An open-air stadium seating 18,000, it was built in 1964 by the Singer Sewing Company. In 1973, it was renamed the Louis Armstrong Memorial Stadium. (Armstrong, in fact, lived only blocks away until his death in 1971.) It was the centerpiece of the U.S.T.A. National Tennis Center when it opened in 1978, and it remained so until 1997, when Arthur Ashe Stadium was built.

Port Authority Heliport. An actual heliport topped the structure; the Beatles landed there on their way to their 1965 concert at Shea. The restaurant at the top, Terrace on the Park, is still open as a catering hall, with views that are said to be more spectacular than the food. When Madonna first came to New York, she lived in Corona and had a job running the elevators there.

New York State Pavilion. Consisting of an oval pavilion, a theater and three spaceship-like towers, the complex was designed by Philip Johnson. Murals that had decorated the outside of the pavilion, including Andy Warhol’s “Thirteen Most Wanted Men,” were painted over before the fair opened.

New York City Pavilion and Ice Theater. Originally built for the 1939 World’s Fair and later used as the home of the United Nations General Assembly, the 1964 pavilion featured a ride around a panoramic model of the city, as well as an ice skating show. It became a museum in 1972, and until 2008 the city operated an ice skating rink in the south end. The museum still houses the panorama.

Hall of Science. The Hall of Science, built for the fair, reopened as a science museum in 1966 and has since undergone several renovations. Nearby, in Space Park, were spacecraft and rockets, donated by NASA and the Defense Department. The Atlas and Titan II rockets remain outside; the Mercury I capsule is in the museum.

Chrysler Pavilion. The Queens Zoo opened on this site in 1968. The zoo’s aviary is the former New York World’s Fair Pavilion (later the Winston Churchill Pavilion), a geodesic dome designed for the fair by R. Buckminster Fuller.

Then & Now The Fair to End All Fairs

More here, here, and here.

“Every city is simultaneously a seedbed of novelty and a hothouse of nostalgia, and modern New York presents a daily dialectic of progress and loss. As Colson Whitehead notes in “The Colossus of New York,” you become a New Yorker — or perhaps a true resident of any place, whether you were born there or not — when you register the disappearance of a familiar spot. “You swallow hard when you discover that the old coffee shop is now a chain pharmacy, that the place where you first kissed so-and-so is now a discount electronics retailer, that where you bought this very jacket is now rubble behind a blue plywood fence and a future office building. Damage has been done to your city.” But this subjective landscape of memory and desire is built on an infrastructure of social and economic reality, on the concrete facts of race and class that Mr. Lee insisted on pointing out.
New Yorkers, like most Americans — white, upper-middle-class Americans in particular — prefer to address such matters through an elaborate lexicon of euphemism and code, speaking of “good schools,” “sketchy” blocks and “improvements” in the retail and culinary amenities. National politics has a tendency to revert, in the age of Obama, to the shadow language of white supremacy, with its rhetoric of laziness, dependency and cultural pathology. The word “class” is uttered sanctimoniously when preceded by “middle” and scoldingly when followed by “war” but is more often swallowed up in numbers and abstractions. We’d much rather talk about the 1 percent or the 47 percent, inequality or envy, diversity or opportunity than about labor, wealth and power. But maybe Brooklyn is a place to start, and perhaps culture, rather than politics, is a more fruitful area of investigation. The name of New York’s most populous borough does not signify what it used to, and embedded in that change of meaning are some clues about the current state of our old friends the cultural contradictions of capitalism.
The new Brooklyn is easily mocked — and almost as easily embraced — as a utopia of beards, tattoos, fixed-gear bikes and do-it-yourself commerce. Everyone is busy knitting, raising chickens, distilling whiskey, making art and displaying the fruits of this activity in pop-up galleries and boutiques, farm-to-table kitchens and temples of mixology. “Brooklyn” might as well be a synonym for the Portland of “Portlandia,” or for the sweet, silly, self-important, stuff-white-people-like Gestalt that television series has come to represent. Its ethic is both countercultural and entrepreneurial, offering an aesthetic of radicalism without the difficult commitment of radical politics. The tension built into the “Brooklyn” brand is that it’s both a local, artisanal, communal protest against the homogenizing forces of corporate culture and a new way of being bourgeois, and as such participating in the destruction of non-middle-class social space. Its rebellious energies are focused largely on restaurants, retail and real estate.
Not everyone in Brooklyn has a chin-strap beard or a sleeve tattoo or a home bacon-curing operation, of course, but with remarkable speed this image of a county of 2.5 million people has become a global brand. And it has almost entirely displaced an older Brooklyn, whose image was once almost as pervasive.”
Read on: Whose Brooklyn Is It, Anyway?

Every city is simultaneously a seedbed of novelty and a hothouse of nostalgia, and modern New York presents a daily dialectic of progress and loss. As Colson Whitehead notes in The Colossus of New York,” you become a New Yorker — or perhaps a true resident of any place, whether you were born there or not — when you register the disappearance of a familiar spot. “You swallow hard when you discover that the old coffee shop is now a chain pharmacy, that the place where you first kissed so-and-so is now a discount electronics retailer, that where you bought this very jacket is now rubble behind a blue plywood fence and a future office building. Damage has been done to your city.” But this subjective landscape of memory and desire is built on an infrastructure of social and economic reality, on the concrete facts of race and class that Mr. Lee insisted on pointing out.

New Yorkers, like most Americans — white, upper-middle-class Americans in particular — prefer to address such matters through an elaborate lexicon of euphemism and code, speaking of “good schools,” “sketchy” blocks and “improvements” in the retail and culinary amenities. National politics has a tendency to revert, in the age of Obama, to the shadow language of white supremacy, with its rhetoric of laziness, dependency and cultural pathology. The word “class” is uttered sanctimoniously when preceded by “middle” and scoldingly when followed by “war” but is more often swallowed up in numbers and abstractions. We’d much rather talk about the 1 percent or the 47 percent, inequality or envy, diversity or opportunity than about labor, wealth and power. But maybe Brooklyn is a place to start, and perhaps culture, rather than politics, is a more fruitful area of investigation. The name of New York’s most populous borough does not signify what it used to, and embedded in that change of meaning are some clues about the current state of our old friends the cultural contradictions of capitalism.

The new Brooklyn is easily mocked — and almost as easily embraced — as a utopia of beards, tattoos, fixed-gear bikes and do-it-yourself commerce. Everyone is busy knitting, raising chickens, distilling whiskey, making art and displaying the fruits of this activity in pop-up galleries and boutiques, farm-to-table kitchens and temples of mixology. “Brooklyn” might as well be a synonym for the Portland of “Portlandia,” or for the sweet, silly, self-important, stuff-white-people-like Gestalt that television series has come to represent. Its ethic is both countercultural and entrepreneurial, offering an aesthetic of radicalism without the difficult commitment of radical politics. The tension built into the “Brooklyn” brand is that it’s both a local, artisanal, communal protest against the homogenizing forces of corporate culture and a new way of being bourgeois, and as such participating in the destruction of non-middle-class social space. Its rebellious energies are focused largely on restaurants, retail and real estate.

Not everyone in Brooklyn has a chin-strap beard or a sleeve tattoo or a home bacon-curing operation, of course, but with remarkable speed this image of a county of 2.5 million people has become a global brand. And it has almost entirely displaced an older Brooklyn, whose image was once almost as pervasive.”

Read on: Whose Brooklyn Is It, Anyway?

©2011 Kateoplis