Comprehensive map of the world’s major operating and planned submarine cable systems and landing stations, updated annually.
Comprehensive map of the world’s major operating and planned submarine cable systems and landing stations, updated annually.
A very interesting new book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, examines the good work habits of over 150 of the greatest writers, artists and scientists.
What does nearly every genius have in common?
During his most fertile years, from the late 1920s through the early ’40s,Faulkner worked at an astonishing pace, often completing three thousand words a day and occasionally twice that amount. (He once wrote to his mother that he had managed ten thousand words in one day, working between 10: 00 A.M. and midnight— a personal record.) “I write when the spirit moves me,” Faulkner said, “and the spirit moves me every day.”
Sometimes the intensity of the work brings on strange physical reactions— her back goes out, her knees swell, and her eyelids once swelled completely shut. Still, she enjoys pushing herself to the limits of her ability. “I have always got to be the best,” she has said. “I’m absolutely compulsive, I admit it. I don’t see that’s a negative.”
His compulsiveness meant that he was astonishingly productive throughout his life— and yet, at age sixty-four, he could nevertheless write, “Looking back over a life of hard work … my only regret is that I didn’t work even harder.”
Musician Glenn Gould:
From the time he retired from public performances in 1961, when he was thirty-one years old, Gould devoted himself completely to his work, spending the vast majority of his time thinking about music at home or recording music in the studio. He had no hobbies and only a few close friends and collaborators, with whom he communicated mostly by telephone. “I don’t think that my life style is like most other people’s and I’m rather glad for that,” Gould told an interviewer in 1980. “[ T] he two things, life style and work, have become one. Now if that’s eccentricity, then I’m eccentric.”
Alexander Graham Bell:
As a young man, Bell tended to work around the clock, allowing himself only three or four hours of sleep a night… When in the throes of a new idea, he pleaded with his wife to let him be free of family obligations; sometimes, in these states, he would work for up to twenty-two hours straight without sleep.
“Today again from seven o’clock in the morning till six in the evening I worked without stirring except to take some food a step or two away,” van Gogh wrote in an 1888 letter to his brother, Theo, adding, “I have no thought of fatigue, I shall do another picture this very night, and I shall bring it off.”
Artist Chuck Close:
“Inspiration is for amateurs,” Close says. “The rest of us just show up and get to work.”What else did many have in common?
- There were more morning people than night owls. Most had a clear routine. The majority woke early, worked until midday, took a break for a few hours then resumed work until dinner. Most seemed to use the evening hours for relaxation and socializing.
- Going for walks was another pattern. Tchaikovsky, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Georgia O’Keefe and many others had long walks as part of their daily routine.
- Kids, don’t try this at home but copious amounts of drugs, alcohol and smoking was mentioned as well. Balzac regularly drank over 50 cups of coffee during a work session; Freud smoked as many as 20 cigars a day for decades; there was no shortage of alcoholics, and I was surprised just how common the use of amphetamines was.
Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre:
…he turned to Corydrane, a mix of amphetamine and aspirin then fashionable among Parisian students, intellectuals, and artists(and legal in France until 1971, when it was declared toxic and taken off the market). The prescribed dose was one or two tablets in the morning and at noon. Sartre took twenty a day… “His diet over a period of twenty-four hours included two packs of cigarettes and several pipes stuffed with black tobacco, more than a quart of alcohol— wine, beer, vodka, whisky, and so on— two hundred milligrams of amphetamines, fifteen grams of aspirin, several grams of barbiturates, plus coffee, tea, rich meals.”
Mathematician Paul Erdos:
Erdos owed his phenomenal stamina to amphetamines— he took ten to twenty milligrams of Benzedrine or Ritalin daily. Worried about his drug use, a friend once bet Erdos that he wouldn’t be able to give up amphetamines for a month. Erdos took the bet and succeeded in going cold turkey for thirty days. When he came to collect his money, he told his friend, “You’ve showed me I’m not an addict. But I didn’t get any work done. I’d get up in the morning and stare at a blank piece of paper. I’d have no ideas, just like an ordinary person. You’ve set mathematics back a month.” After the bet, Erdos promptly resumed his amphetamine habit, which he supplemented with shots of strong espresso and caffeine tablets. “A mathematician,” he liked to say, “is a machine for turning coffee into theorems.”
As the Erdos anecdote illustrates, many of the drugs (especially the amphetamines) were not used for pleasure, but as a way to increase productivity and output.
Overall, the message is clear. Work, work, work. To be a genius at your craft it’s all about the hours and dedication.
“Sooner or later,” Pritchett writes, “the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lose a minute. It is very depressing.”
In the study [PDF], [researcher Rik] Pieters followed more than 2,500 Dutch people over six years. For more specificity, the researcher broke materialism down into three categories that have subtle but significant differences. What Pieters calls “acquisition centrality” is pure, unfettered materialism. It’s the consumerism of the shopaholic—an unadulterated love of acquiring and owning possessions. “Possession-defined success” is the desire to keep up with your neighbours, a status-driven urge to make sure you’re not falling behind. And “acquisition in the pursuit of happiness” is exactly what it sounds like: buying with the belief that happiness is just one more Apple product away. It is materialism that “reflects a deficit.” …
He found that, over time, loneliness increased materialism and materialism increased loneliness (though the effects here were much smaller). Consumers can find themselves in a vicious circle, shopping because they’re sad, getting sadder as they shop, shopping some more—a loneliness loop that threatens to end with authorities discovering you alone in your apartment, long since dead, surrounded by a heaps of unopened Amazon boxes.
Surprisingly, however, as Pieters dug down into the different types of materialism, he found that not all materialism makes you miserable. While those who shopped in pursuit of happiness or to attain a particular status predictably increased loneliness over time, the people shopping out of “acquisitive centrality” actually seemed to decrease their loneliness."
(via The Dish)
(Source: , via explore-blog)
(Student) architects’ fantasy for an anarchic society.
Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made
Crooked Timber is a widely read left-wing political blog run by a group of (mostly) academics from and working in several different nations, including the United States, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Australia and Singapore. The name alludes to a quotation of Immanuel Kant:“Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.”
Crooked Timber was founded in July 2003 as a merger of several individual blogs, including Junius and Gallowglass, along with some new contributors. Additional members were added over subsequent months until the group reached an agreed optimum of 15 members.
Crooked Timber ranked in Technorati's Top 100 blogs between 2003 and 2005 and is still widely linked to in the academic blogosphere. On March 9, 2008, it was listed as number 33 in The Guardian's list of the world's 50 most important blogs. On April 15, 2011, an article on academic blogs in The New York Times listed Crooked Timber as one of seven influential examples of the type, describing it as having “built a reputation as an intellectual global powerhouse”.
The quotation “Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made” (Aus so krummem Holze, als woraus der Mensch gemacht ist, kann nichts ganz Gerades gezimmert werden) is from Kant’s Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose. The liberal philosopher Isaiah Berlin alluded to the quotation in The Crooked Timber of Humanity: Chapters in the History of Ideas.
Crooked Timber has held several online book events, during which a subset of members (and often also invited guestbloggers) read a book and each write a blog post about it, either a review or a post inspired by the book.
For the last few months, I’ve had a draft post sitting in my dashboard listing all the words and phrases I’d like to see banished from the English language. At the top—jockeying for the #1 slot with “yummy,” “closure” and “it’s all good”—is “public intellectual.”
I used to like the phrase; it once even expressed an aspiration of mine. But in the years since Russell Jacoby wrote his polemic against the retreat of intellectuals to the ivory tower, it’s been overworked as a term of abuse.
What was originally intended as a materialist analysis of the relationship between politics, economics, and culture—Jacoby’s aim was to analyze how real changes in the economy and polity were driving intellectuals from the public square—has become little more than a rotten old chestnut that lazy journalists, pundits, and reviewers keep in their back pocket for whenever they’re short of copy. Got nothing to say? Nothing on your mind? Not to worry: here’s a beating-a-dead-horse-piece-that-writes-itself about the jargony academic who writes only for her peers in specialized journals that only a handful of people read.
SOME of the smartest thinkers on problems at home and around the world are university professors, but most of them just don’t matter in today’s great debates.
Yet it’s not just that America has marginalized some of its sharpest minds. They have also marginalized themselves.
But, over all, there are, I think, fewer public intellectuals on American university campuses today than a generation ago.
Professors today have a growing number of tools available to educate the public, from online courses to blogs to social media. Yet academics have been slow to cast pearls through Twitter and Facebook. Likewise, it was TED Talks by nonscholars that made lectures fun to watch (but I owe a shout-out to the Teaching Company’s lectures, which have enlivened our family’s car rides).
I write this in sorrow, for I considered an academic career and deeply admire the wisdom found on university campuses. So, professors, don’t cloister yourselves like medieval monks — we need you!
Those are the bookends of Kristof’s piece. In between come the usual volumes of complaint: too much jargon, too much math, too much peer review, too much left politics. Plus a few dubious qualifications (economists aren’t so bad, says Kristof, because they’re Republican-friendly…and, I guess, not jargony, math-y, or peer-review-y) and horror stories that turn out to be neither horrible nor even stories.
Erik Voeten at The Monkey Cage has already filleted the column, citing a bunch of counter-examples from political science, which is usually held up, along with literary theory, as Exhibit A of this problem.
But we also have all of us—sociologists, philosophers, historians, economists, literary critics, as well as political scientists—who write at Crooked Timber, which is often read and cited by the mainstream media. There’s Lawyers, Guns, and Money: judging by their comments thread, they have a large and devoted audience of non-academics. My cohort of close friends from graduate school write articles for newspapers and magazines all the time—or important research for think tanks that gets picked up by the mainstream media—and books that are widely reviewed in the mainstream media. (And what am I? Chopped liver?) Kristof need only open the pages of the Nation, the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, the Boston Review, The American Conservative,Dissent, The American Prospect—even the newspaper for which he writes:today’s Times features three opinion columns and posts by academics—to see that our public outlets are well populated by professors.
And these are just the established academics. If you look at the graduate level, the picture is even more interesting.
When I think of my favorite writers these days—the people from whom I learn the most and whose articles and posts I await most eagerly—I think of Seth Ackerman, Peter Frase, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Lili Loofbourow, Aaron Bady,Freddie de Boer, LD Burnett, Tressie McMillan Cottom, Adam Goodman, Matthijs Krul, Amy Schiller, Charles Petersen, Tom Meaney…I could go on. For a long time.
(And though Belle Waring has long since ceased to be a grad student, can someone at Book Forum or Salon or somewhere get this woman a gig? We’re talking major talent here.)
Whenever I read these folks, I have to remind myself that they’re still in grad school (or just a few months out). I sometimes think they’re way smarter than we ever were when we were in grad school. But that’s not really true. It’s simply that they’re more used to writing for public audiences—and are thus better equipped to communicate ideas in intelligible, stylish prose—than we were.
When I was in grad school, my friends and I would dream of writing essays and articles for the common reader. I remember when one of our cohort—Diane Simon—broke into The Nation with a book review (of Nadine Gordimer?) We were totally envious. And awestruck. Getting into that world seemed impossible, unless you were Gordon Wood sauntering into the New York Review of Books after having transformed your field.
The reason it seemed so difficult is that it was. There just weren’t that many outlets for that kind of writing. None of us had any contacts. More important, aside from, maybe, a local alternative weekly, there were no baby steps to take on our way to writing for those outlets. There really was no way to get from here—working on seminar papers or dissertation proposals—to there: writing brilliant essays under mastheads that once featured names like Edmund Wilson and Hannah Arendt.
I remember all too well writing an essay in the mid 1990s that I wanted to publish in one of those magazines. When I looked around, all I could see was The New Yorker, Harper’s, The New York Review, that kind of thing. I sent it everywhere,and got nowhere.
Today, it’s different. You’ve got blogs, Tumblr, Twitter, and all those little magazines of politics and culture that we’re constantly reading about in the New York Times: Jacobin, The New Inquiry, the Los Angeles Review of Books, n+1, and more, which frequently feature the work of graduate students.
Now there are all kinds of problems with this new literary economy of grad student freelancers. And from talking to graduate students today (as well as junior faculty), I’m well aware that the pressure to publish in academic venues—and counter-pressure not to publish in public venues—is all too real. Worse, in fact, than when I was in grad school. Because the job market has gotten so much worse. I often wonder and worry about the job prospects of the grad students I’ve mentioned above. Are future employers going to take a pass on them simply because they’ve written as brilliantly and edgily as they have?
Back to Kristof: Even from the limited point of view of what he’s talking about—where have all the public intellectuals gone?—he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
So what is he really talking about, then?
You begin to get a clue of what he’s really talking about, then, by noticing two of the people he approvingly cites and quotes in his critique of academia: Anne-Marie Slaughter and Jill Lepore.
Kristof holds up both women—one the former dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs, the other the holder of an endowed chair at Harvard—as examples of publicly engaged scholars. In addition to their academic posts, Slaughter was Obama’s Director of Policy Planning at the State Department (George Kennan’s position, once upon a time) and a frequent voice on the front pages of every major newspaper; Lepore is an immensely prolific and widely read staff writer at The New Yorker.
(Incidentally, as an editor pointed out on Facebook, Slaughter and Lepore, along with Will McCants, who Kristof also cites approvingly, are all published by Princeton University Press. So much for academic presses churning out “soporifics.”)
Now I happen to know Jill rather well. She and I first met in the summer of 1991, when she was looking for a housemate and I was looking for a temporary place to stay. I moved in for a time—one of our other housemates was Mary Renda, who would go on to write a kick-ass book on the US invasion and occupation of Haiti, which it would behoove a trigger-happy Kristof to read—and later got in on the ground floor of her dissertation. She’s a truly gifted historian.
But there are a lot of gifted historians. And only so many slots for them at The New Yorker.
The problem here is not that scholars don’t aspire to write for The New Yorker. It’s that it’s a rather selective place. Kristof says that Lepore “is an exception to everything said here.” She is, but not in the way he thinks. Or for the reasons he thinks.
If you’re flying so high up in the air—Kristof tends to look down on most situations from 30,000 feet above sea level—you’re not going to see much of anything. And Kristof doesn’t. He only reads The New Yorker, and then complains that everyone doesn’t write for The New Yorker. He doesn’t see the many men and women who are in fact writing for public audiences. Nor does he see the gatekeepers—even in our new age of blogs and little magazines—that prevent supply from meeting demand.
And to the extent that he’s right about the problem of academics publishing for other academics he doesn’t identify its real causes:
A basic challenge is that Ph.D. programs have fostered a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience. This culture of exclusivity is then transmitted to the next generation through the publish-or-perish tenure process. Rebels are too often crushed or driven away.
Not really. The problem here isn’t that typically American conceit of “culture” v. nonconformist rebel. It’s the very material pressures and constraints young academics face, long before tenure. It’s the job market. It’s the rise of adjuncts. It’s neoliberalism. Jacoby understood the material sources of the problem he diagnosed. Kristof doesn’t.
But the material dimensions of Kristof’s oversight (or lack of sight) go even deeper. When we criticize Kristof or other academics-don’t-write-for-the-public-spouting journalists, we tend to do what I’ve just done here: We point to all the academics we know who are writing in well established venues and places and cry, “Look at them! Look at me!”
But there’s an entire economy of unsung writers with PhDs who are in a far worse position: Though they want to write, and sometimes do, for a public audience, they don’t have a standing gig the way I or The Monkey Cagers do. They’re getting by on I don’t know what. And while most of the people I mentioned above, including many of the graduate students, are getting their work into fairly mid- to high-level places, these folks aren’t. Certainly not in high enough places to pay the bills or to supplement whatever it is they’re doing to get by.
Take Yasmin Nair. Yasmin’s a writer in Chicago, with a PhD from Purdue. She’s also an activist. She’s impatient, she sees things the rest of us don’t see, she’s intemperate, she’s impossible, she’s endearing, and she’s unbelievably funny. Think Pauline Kael, only way more political. (Actually, Freddie deBoer did a pretty damn good job describing her work, so read Freddie.) She’s got two essays that I think are, as pieces of prose, brilliant: “Gay Marriage Hurts My Breasts” and “Why Is America Turning to Shit?“
In my ideal world, Robert Silvers would reach down from his Olympian heights and snatch up Yasmin to write about or review, well, anything. (Didn’t that kind of happen to Kael with The New Yorker?) But that’s not going to happen.
And that not happening doesn’t even begin to describe the real challenges facing a writer like Nair. Somehow she’s got to pay the bills. But unlike professors like myself or even graduate students who’ve got fellowships or TA positions (and happen to be lucky enough to live in places with a low cost of living), at least for the time being, Yasmin doesn’t have a steady-paying gig.
This isn’t just an issue of precarity or justice; it’s intimately related to the Kristofs of this world bleating “Where have all the public intellectuals gone?” Yasmin is a public intellectual (there, I said it). But without the kinds of supports the rest of us currently have or will have in the future, her pieces in The Awl or In These Times or on her blog—which is how the rest of us academics make our beginnings in the public writing world—can’t give her the lift she needs to get her work up in the air where it belongs. Because she’s always got something else, here on the ground, on her mind: namely, how to pay the rent.
And she’s not alone. Anthony Galluzzo has a PhD in English from UCLA. He’s also been adjuncting—first at West Point, now at CUNY—for years. He’s written a mess of academic articles. Two years ago he wrote an article in Jacobin that I thought was pure genius. It was called “Sarah Lawrence, With Guns,” and it was about his experience teaching English at West Point. That’s a topic that another English professor at West Point has written about, but Anthony’s treatment has the virtue of being coruscating, funny, ironic, honest, and not boosterish. Like Mary Renda’s book, the kind of writing Kristof could profit from.
When Anthony’s piece came out, I thought to myself, “This is the beginning for him.” But it hasn’t been. Because he’s been adjuncting around the clock, sometimes without getting paid on time, and worrying about other things. Like…how to pay the rent.
I had to smile at Kristof’s nod to publish or perish. Most working academics would give anything to be confronted with that dilemma. The vast majority can’t even think of publishing; they’re too busy teaching four, five, courses a semester. As adjuncts, as community college professors, at CUNY and virtually everywhere else.
I don’t ever expect Kristof to look to the material sources of this problem; that would require him to raise the sorts of questions about contemporary capitalism that journalists of his ilk are not inclined—or paid—to raise.
But Kristof’s a fellow who likes to save the world. So maybe this is something he can do. Instead of writing about the end of public intellectuals, why not devote a column a month to unsung writers who need to be sung? Why not head over to the “Sunday Reading” at The New Inquiry, which features all the greatest writing on the internets for that week? Why not write about the Anthony Galuzzo’s and Yasmin Nair’s who deserve to be read: not as a matter of justice but for the sake of the culture? Who knows? He might even learn something.
(Special thanks to Aaron Bady for reading a draft of this post and contributing some much needed additions.)
I mentioned Boston Review in my post. But as a friend reminded me, they deserve a special shout-out. Because not only do they regularly introduce and publish academics like myself—one of my earliest and IMHO most important pieces was chosen and championed by Josh Cohen, the magazine’s editor—but they often solicit work from graduate students like Lili or Aaron and non-academically employed PhDs. So if you’ve got that gem of a piece and are wondering where to send it, send it to Boston Review.
Also, I should have said this in the piece, but this line—”He only reads The New Yorker, and then complains that everyone doesn’t write for The New Yorker.”—was something Aaron Bady wrote to me in an email. I should have quoted it and credited to it to him in the post. My apologies.
Aquarter century has passed since Russell Jacoby coined the term “public intellectuals” in a book meant to mark their extinction. In The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe, published in 1987, Jacoby defined public intellectuals as “writers and thinkers who address a general and educated audience.” The term was new, he explained, but there had been public intellectuals for centuries: “The greatest minds from Galileo to Freud have not been content with private discoveries; they sought, and found, a public.” Since the 1960s, their numbers, never high, had been plummeting. Lewis Mumford and Edmund Wilson were born in 1895, Walter Lippmann in 1889. By 1987, Wilson and Lippmann were dead and Mumford was in decline. Where, Jacoby wanted to know, were the young Mumfords and Lippmanns and Wilsons? There were none.
In 1987, Jacoby, then 42, reported that, in his view, no serious American thinker under the age of 45 was writing for anyone other than academics, or able to. (“Intellectuals who write with vigor and clarity may be as scarce as low rents in New York.”) For this, Jacoby blamed higher education. The growth of the modern research university in the decades following the Second World War nursed a generation of intellectuals who had hardly ever lived off campus; they barely knew anyone who hadn’t earned a Ph.D. These people couldn’t hold a decent dinner conversation with an ordinary reader, much less write for one.
When Jacoby claimed that there were no public intellectuals in America under the age of 45, he admitted that what he really meant was only that none of them were left of center. Conservative intellectuals had never retreated into the academy and had never abandoned the public. Also, Jacoby’s favorite public intellectuals weren’t professors; they were journalists. He also missed the flourishing of an entire generation of black intellectuals in the very years when he was writing his book. And he had taken almost no notice of intellectuals who were female. Except for Mary McCarthy, who happens to have been married to Edmund Wilson, the public intellectuals in Jacoby’s pantheon were nearly all men, and their writing shares a certain toughness, the kind of thing vaguely and invariably euphemized by characterizing a writer as having “muscular prose.” Suffice to say, if you’re looking for Norman Mailer, you won’t stumble across Willa Cather.
Jacoby took flak for telling American academics they were coddled, graceless, and irrelevant. (He was, of course, courting exactly the reaction he got.) Much of this is by the by. But much of the very best intellectual work being done in the United States is still being done by journalists, not scholars, and is still being published outside the university, by magazines and trade presses. Needless to say, the thriving of exceptionally talented journalists is cause for nothing but celebration. But lately, with nearly everything about publishing in flux, the relationship between intellectuals and the public is more vexed than ever. One worry is that, amid the flurry of changes, gains made by women in the academy have been lost to the public. More troubling than Jacoby’s blindness to female intellectuals 25 years ago is that there are still so few female scholars whose work is read by nonscholars. There are distinguished American scholars whose work is being prominently published, but very, very few are women.
Academic publishers have a particular obligation to measure the distance between the university and the public, and to think about whose work spans it. One reason journalists write well is that journalists write for money: They write for readers. Historically, under the system of scholarly publishing—academic journals and university presses—scholars write for nothing. They have been able to afford to do this because they are paid salaries by the universities that employ them. (Academics rarely meet deadlines because their failure to meet them seldom has any consequence; in this way, too, they are not treated like writers.) And, while academic journals and university presses like to have readers who will pay for what they publish, they have been able to do without them; their publications have been subsidized by the universities that house them. University publishing has suited both scholars who need to publish and presses whose mission is to publish them. It has not rewarded clarity or beauty or timeliness, and it has not made a priority of satisfying readers or earning profits because it was not designed to do any of these things: It was designed to advance scholarship.
This set of arrangements has produced a great, heaping mountain of exquisite knowledge surrounded by a vast moat of dreadful prose. Whether the mountain is higher than the moat is wide has been much debated but may not matter any longer: This era is nearly over. Much of what scholars write is and should be written for other scholars: An audience of specialists is often exactly the right audience needed for the fullest and most sophisticated exchange of ideas. But in the digital age, those exchanges can be made through forms of publication that no longer require publishers.
University presses have been asked to look at their ledgers; trustees are asking for “innovation agendas,” and “big ideas,” and “branding visions,” and the usual malarkey that you hear just before the ax falls. Meanwhile, for those scholars hoping to write for nonscholars by entering the world of print journalism, the blood is already all over the carpet.
Bookstores and newsstands have shut their doors. Newspapers, magazines, and entire publishing houses have stopped their presses. And the public, wearing big, Internet boots, has stomped through the gates of the university. “Writing for the public” is, by now, a fairly meaningless thing to say. Everyone who tweets “writes for the public.” Lectures are posted online. So are papers. Most of what academics produce can be found, by anyone who wants to find it, by searching Google. These shifts have made exchanging ideas easier, faster, cheaper, and less dependent on publishers—and even less accountable to readers.
Every day, more scholars are writing more words for less money than ever before: They are self-publishing and tweeting and blogging and MOOC-ing. Much of this is all to the good, especially insofar as it disseminates knowledge. But publicity and public-spiritedness are not one and the same, and when publicity, for its own sake, is taken for a measure of worth—some tenure evaluations are conducted by counting “hits”—attention replaces citation as the academic author’s compensation. One trouble here is: Peer review may reward opacity, but a search engine rewards nothing so much as outrageousness.
The new economy of letters hasn’t made academic writing better, but it has made it harder for certain kinds of intellectuals to be heard. All the noise has silenced the modest, the untenured, and the politically moderate.
It has also had the unintended consequence of diminishing the prominence of women intellectuals during the very decades when a generation of female scholars reached the top of their fields. The work of female intellectuals is underrepresented in everything from online courses to the nation’s most prominent reviewing venues. One explanation is bias, but another is reticence. (As Erika Fry reported last year in the Columbia Journalism Review, nearly 80 percent of the op-eds published in the nation’s leading newspapers are written by men, but that number appears to roughly reflect the gender breakdown of submissions; it’s not so much that opinion essays written by women aren’t published; it’s that women don’t write them.)
Then, too, in an online culture that values opinion and personality over research and reporting, academics keen to reach readers generally have the best shot at success if they are willing to offer cavalier and often unsubstantiated opinions, promote their own work, and even expose their lives to public view. Few female intellectuals, and not many men, are willing to do these things. Not everyone wants to be paid in attention.
University presses may not be in any position to fix these problems—although universities are—but they ought to be able to mitigate the worst of them. With trade presses less willing to publish scholarship than ever before, university presses have got to revise their mission. They need to defend their charge to publish the best scholarship, brilliantly. But they can also publish less, better. They can demand a great deal more from their authors (not least, that they meet deadlines), and give much more to their readers (including books written for a nonacademic audience). Reticence can be conquered.
Above all, university presses can take as their charge countering some of the Internet-era forces that diminish the work of some of the academy’s most exciting and important thinkers by finding, cultivating, and decisively promoting the contributions of those scholars who happen to hold a passionate sense of accountability to both the university and the public. Someone’s got to bridge the moat.
Soineya, a “co-sleeping specialty shop” that opened in Tokyo’s eccentric Akihabara district in September, lets its patrons sleep with one of a staff of female employees — for a price.
According to Rocket News, Soineya — whose name literally means “sleep together shop” — isn’t a brothel, but a cuddle club where after paying an admission of 3,000 yen (about $38), customers select from a menu of sleep durations.
The business also offers a selection of premium services at an additional cost.
For 1,000 yen (about $12) a pop, the customer can give the woman a foot massage, have the woman look at him or her, get petted on the head, or have the woman change clothing, among other things, according to a Rocket News translation of the Soineya Web site. Interestingly, it is more expensive to give a foot massage than to receive a foot massage.
Strangely, this isn’t the first business to sell cuddles. In July, The Huffington Post featured Jackie Samuels, a Rochester, N.Y., woman whose business, the Snuggery,charged $1 a minute for cuddling. Like Soineya, the Snuggery isn’t about sex.
"Hypothetically, if someone were to get aroused, I would just communicate that that’s not what we’re doing,” she told the Penfield Post.
Despite its population’s generally conservative social mores, Japan, and especially Tokyo, is no stranger to taboo-busting businesses.
Recently, two former adult film actresses opened Love Joule, Japan’s first “love and sex bar devoted to women,” according to the Tokyo Reporter. The Shibuya district bar’s vibrator-lined setting is meant to encourage discussion of masturbation among women.
[…] I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered and my relationships suffered. And I’m standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of all that pain. I am young, yes, but what I have learned is that love, the beauty of it, the joy of it and yes, even the pain of it, is the most incredible gift to give and to receive as a human being. And we deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise.
Ellen Page at HRC’s Time to Thrive conference, via Human Rights Campaign.
In contrast to most zoos around the world, which use contraception or sterilization to control their animals’ reproduction, Copenhagen Zoo has chosen not to for two principal reasons. Some methods of contraception can have negative effects on an animal’s health and future reproductive ability, although slowly science is eliminating these.
But the Danes also strongly believe that being a parent is an enriching experience for their animals. The problem is that while it solves one animal welfare problem—the well-being of the breeding adults—it creates a subsequent ethical issue, that of what to do with the “surplus offspring.”
To humans, the concept of surplus offspring sounds wrong, but in the world of zoos, where space for endangered species and resources to keep them is limited, it is a different story. An enclosure to house giraffes is very expensive to build and maintain—and zoos do not have limitless pots of money. So if you allow animals to breed as often as they want, inevitably the result is animals perceived as surplus to requirements.
If Marius has many siblings or other relatives in the captive giraffe population, not just at Copenhagen but at other Danish zoos and even those across Europe, then his genes are not important in terms of maintaining genetic diversity. This is one of the goals that drives zoo conservation, as it is genetic diversity that allows species to adapt to changes in their environment—and zoos see themselves as providing a population safety net.
For wild animal populations this is of vital importance. So Copenhagen Zoo would argue that by allowing Marius to live—in any zoo, and especially one of those in Europe already well-stocked with individuals bearing his family’s genes, he is taking up limited and valuable space. Space that should be allotted to an individual that will add to or help maintain genetic diversity.
This is a very pragmatic stance. To many people in Britain this goes against our cultural identity as a nation of animal lovers. Danes love animals, too, but express this in a different manner. They would, I suspect, agree with animal welfare experts in arguing that death itself is not an animal welfare issue; what is important is that the death is humane, and that the life that preceded it was good. In the United Kingdom we are perhaps too focused on longevity and not on quality of life. This is the key difference in attitude to the case of Marius the giraffe.