black holes and gray matter. in one thousand tangos.

             
“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?

"The ‘teenager’ was the result and invention of adolescent girls. They were the ones buying the magazines, the cosmetics, the clothes, and the records that were changing people’s attitudes. Once they started expressing themselves with their own pop culture there was an opportunity for marketing and it was through that input that they got recognized as a distinct class."
Matt Wolf on his new documentary Teenage, about the birth of youth culture

"The ‘teenager’ was the result and invention of adolescent girls. They were the ones buying the magazines, the cosmetics, the clothes, and the records that were changing people’s attitudes. Once they started expressing themselves with their own pop culture there was an opportunity for marketing and it was through that input that they got recognized as a distinct class."

Matt Wolf on his new documentary Teenage, about the birth of youth culture

There’s a reason Ukraine is at the heart of the most significant geopolitical crisis yet to appear in the post-Soviet space. There is no post-Soviet state like it. Unlike the Baltic states, it does not have a recent (interwar) memory of statehood. Nor, unlike almost every other post-Soviet state aside from Belarus, does the majority population have a radically different language and culture to distinguish itself from the Russians. In many cases, for these countries, the traditional language suggests a natural political ally—Finland for the Estonians, Turkey for the Azeris, Romania for the Moldovans. These linguistic and cultural affinities are not without their difficulties, but they do give a long-term geopolitical orientation to these countries. 

Ukraine has this to some extent in its western part, formerly known as Galicia, which has strong cultural and to an extent linguistic affinities with Poland. But the country’s capital, Kyiv, has much stronger ties to Russia: Russians consider Kievan Rus, which lasted from the 9th to the 13th century (when it was sacked and burned by the Mongols), to be the first Russian civilization. Russian Orthodoxy was first proclaimed there. Most people in Kyiv speak Russian, rather than Ukrainian, and in any cases the languages are quite close (about as close as Spanish and Portuguese). On television, it is typical for any live broadcast—whether it’s news, sports, or a reality-TV show—to go back and forth seamlessly between Russian and Ukrainian, with the understanding that most people know both. Russians too often assume that these cultural affinities mean that there is no such thing as a separate Ukrainian people. There is. But the closeness of the two peoples makes forging an independent path for Ukraine extraordinarily difficult.

Adding to this difficulty has been the Soviet legacy, which in Ukraine as everywhere else is always and everywhere visible. The Ukrainian historian Giorgy Kasianov has written that Ukrainians are forced to exist in several historical and semantic fields simultaneously: the roads they drive on, the factories they work at, the social relations they engage in—all are part of the Soviet heritage. As in the rest of the former Soviet Union, including Russia, this heritage is crumbling, but in Ukraine in particular it remains formidable. As a result, Ukraine has essentially been frozen in time since independence.”

Read on: Ukraine, Putin, and the West

[photos: NYT]

Between 1918 and 1928, Alexander Vasilievich Chayanov(1888-1937) wrote and published (at his own expense) five short Gothic-fantastic tales in separate volumes with print runs of no more than 300 copies, mostly under the whimsical pseudonym “Botanist X.” In his lifetime and until the 1990s, Chayanov was better known as an expert in agricultural economics, particularly peasant labor – and his objections to Stalin’s program of forced collectivization caused his arrest in 1930, exile from Moscow to Kazakhstan, and eventual execution.”

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