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Why Baby Boomers Don’t Get Bernie Sanders

Bryan Williams in New Republic:

Even among elite PMC careers, workers are seeing much of their professional autonomy removed. Forty years ago, most lawyers worked in individual practice or small firms. Now, young lawyers are more likely to work for huge corporate law firms for very long hours doing depressing work like “document review,” all because they have no other choice if they want to pay back their mortgage-sized student loans. For the first seven years of a career as an investment banker, a young associate may work 90 hours a week—to support a Boomer managing director, who may only work 60. Young college professors are much more likely to be part-time and non-tenure track than Boomer professors were at the same points in their careers, leading to increased militancy among adjunct professors.

In short, PMC jobs, especially for younger workers, increasingly resemble the crappy jobs of the beginning of the twentieth century. They have the proletarian character of the same monotonous thing day after day: spreadsheets, multiple-choice tests, document review. These changes in professional work mean we can no longer avoid the issue of class. Some economic groups have very different interests from others, and society generally is set up to benefit those at the top.

This has been the essential message of Sanders’s campaign: that the game is rigged, and the only thing to do is take on the employers. Her very recent adoption of that rhetoric notwithstanding, Clinton believes you can play the game and climb the ladder—that Americans should fight for their careers, not fight their employers. She has embraced the corporations and elite groups that determine these career trajectories, and won the support of Wall Street billionaires like George Soros and Warren Buffett.

Read the whole thing here.

Everybody hates Jobs

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I watched Steve Jobs at my local theater. Twice. The first time, aside from a few elderly couples, the room was largely empty. I rushed back the following week, afraid they would take it off the floor soon–and I wouldn’t get the full cinematic effect ever again. This time, I was the only one there. Since then, both director Danny Boyle and writer Aaron Sorkin have spoken about the movie’s fate in several interviews, notably with The Hollywood Reporter. Steve Jobs simply couldn’t find an audience.

Critics who liked the movie attribute this to timing. In a year packed with cerebral cinema, Steve Jobs did not std out, especially after the failure of the last Jobs biopic. A harsher criticism is that the movie treats its subject, Steve Jobs, unfairly. In other words, Aaron Sorkin is cynical about Jobs and Michael Fassbender portrays the man as some irredeemable maniac. “The man was not all bad,” states a review for the movie on Amazon.

It’s the second criticism that I find difficult to understand. It’s simply not true. Throughout the movie, Fassbender’s Job is an exacting megalomaniac, yes, driven to create the perfect machine at the cost of his ex-wife and daughter–but he is continuously challenged by them, too, on this exact point. And by Joanna Hoffman, played by Kate Winslet, who hovers like a batty grandmother with surplus moral rectitude.

Throughout the three acts that make the movie, Fassbender appears perturbed, both as the genius who “isn’t getting his due” and by the fact that others value human relationships over the perfect computer. At Job’s core, the film says, is burning rage at being rejected, first by his biological parents, then by his original adoptive parents (Job was eventually adopted a second time). But what could an infant do, he asks in the movie, that the parents who took him home would want to give him back?

Perhaps the real Steve Jobs was motivated by more than just parental rejection–but this is a movie we’re watching and a particular motive certainly suffices for its narrative needs. The pain is profound–in a way, it’s quite Voldemortesque, especially when we learn that Jobs frequents his biological father’s restaurant without the old man knowing. This is a character incapable of love, as Dumbledore explains to Harry Potter in Rowling’s books because he was not made with love. If Aaron Sorkin ever read that comparison, I suspect he might faint.

Regardless, these daddy-issues drive Michael Fassbender’s Jobs to seek a Silicon Valley version of apotheosis by betraying his friends and through ritual patricide–treacherously replacing ill-fated Apple CEO John Scully. Jobs continually rejects his own paternity publicly, including in an interview with Time and when he does accept his daughter, is furious by his version of betrayal–she sells a house that he bought specifically for her.

So yes, Fassbender’s Jobs isn’t someone you might want to FaceTime. But there is something tragic here, that inability to connect, to experience love in the most fundamental of human relationships. In the last act, however, technical perfection can no longer triumph human connection–this is a movie, after all–especially when his rejection of her forces his daughter to reject him, too.

Fassbender’s Job talks it out with Jeff Daniel’s John Scully. Jobs also faces his considerable narcissism and is humbled–smartly connected to that pesky Time article mentioned earlier–thanks to a Joanna Hoffman/Kate Winslet meltdown. In the penultimate scene, he reconciles with his daughter on the rooftop of the building where the next Apple product is being launched. “I’m poorly made,” he says, acknowledging his flaws as a parent and jumping headfirst into our cesspool of human grief. You may even be tempted to give him a hug. Or shake his hand.

In short, the character grows.

They don’t have to, always, in art. But in this movie, they do.

 

On 21st Feb, Amar Ekushey

“Language is called the garment of thought: however, it should rather be, language is the flesh-garment, the body, of thought.      

–Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)  

‘if a mother tongue is crushed, thoughts and ideas will inevitably die’

Sit down to breakfast at my parents’ and your ears will discern three languages running through the house. There’s my father on the phone in our native Chatgaiya. From the rest of the house, our simmering bisque of Bangla and English. Step outside and not much changes–not with forty or so living languages of Bangladesh interacting with one another. The cacophony resists a singular narrative and has long been ignored in national dialogue. On social media, however, this staggering linguistic diversity is being increasingly embraced. It’s celebrated like never before. Will this translate into the natural legacy of the Language Movement of 1952? I sure hope so.

Quote above from here.

The Play’s the Thing

9780674057111-lgMichael Bérubé in American Scientist:

On the Origin of Stories attempts an evolutionary explanation of the appearance of art—and, more specifically, of the utility of fiction. From its title (with its obvious echo of Darwin) to its readings of The Odyssey and Horton Hears a Who!, Boyd’s book argues that the evolution of the brain (itself a development of some significance to the world) has slowly and fitfully managed to produce a species of primate whose members habitually try to entertain and edify one another by making stuff up.

If this sounds reductive, don’t worry: Boyd patiently explains that this isn’t your father’s sociobiology or your great-grandfather’s eugenics. To say that something is genetic is not, despite decades of bad science followed by decades of bad popularizations of bad science, to say that it is genetically determined, if “determined” means (as it usually does) “inevitably fated.” Boyd expresses some exasperation at the idea of genetic determinism, arguing that

the notion that genes shape us is less deterministic than the notion that we are the product of our environment, since the complexity and randomness of genetic recombination in sexual reproduction means that we are each the result of an unpredictably generated variation unique to each of us rather than of anything imposed from without.

Thus, writes Boyd, “we should see genes less as constraints than as enablers,” just as “we should see genes not as deniers of the role of the environment but as devices for extracting information from the environment.”

Continue reading here: The Play’s the Thing » American Scientist.

In the News: Free Stories, Vending Machines, and Literary Archives

From Colorado Review Blog:

Literature is coming to the streets (again), and it’s disguised as coffee sleeves, fast food, and tanks. The Atlantic explores the guerilla-marketing techniques being deployed to promote reading worldwide in this article. The city of Grenoble, France, leads the pack with machines that vend stories according to reading time—one-minute, three-minutes and five-minutes. The Internet approves.

The machines are the brainchildren of Short Edition, a French publishing startup. The New Yorker says an “influential Hollywood director” is interested in bringing the machines to America (and possibly installing them in Starbucks). While we wait, human-children in this country will have the freedom to choose books instead of toys with their Happy Meals from February 9-15 as part of McDonalds’s Happy Meal Books drive.

Continue reading here.

Are we really pluralistic?

From Dhaka Tribune:

Pleas for pluralism are not new in our country — one recently appeared in the DT — but these are often girded with references to the pre-colonial past. History certainly has its place, but using the past alone as justification for pluralism ignores the complex Bangladesh of the present.

Bangladesh has to be diverse. As one of the largest countries in the world (eighth largest by population), there are more Bangladeshis roaming the planet than, say, there are Russians. It should not be surprising, then, that this humongous populace is diverse in ideology, interests, and ambitions. People in such large numbers are bound to be heterogenous.

On the whole, however, diverse is not a word we use to describe Bangladesh, and many Bangladeshis tend to view the country through the narrow lens of their personal experiences. To some extent, it may be the fault of popular culture, which eschews complexity in favour of uniformity.

Continue reading here.