Weekend Reading

After what turned into a few weeks’ hiatus, here are a few things worth reading for the weekend. I started off with some contemporary pieces of news I’ve been digesting, but the further you go the more likely you are to notice that I’ve been running through my backlog of favorite’d links from the summer. Either way, I hope you find something interesting.

Last week was Labor Day, but labor has all but disappeared from the public discourse:

In scores of different ways, we paint investors as the heroes and workers as the sideshow. We tax the fruits of labor more vigorously than we tax the gains from capital — resistance to continuing the payroll tax cut is a case in point — and we hide workers away while lavishing attention on those who make their livings by moving money around.

The colors of Crayola, from 1903 to now, with a pretty chart.

That Groupon deal for tuition in Chicago? It’s just another marketing scheme for a school that sold its name to the last big donor.

Welcome to Booker, Texas! Unless you’re Al Jazeera.

From McSweeney’s – A Post Gender Normative Man Tries to Pick Up a Woman at a Bar:

Crazy news about the first female African head of state and Liberia’s sitting president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, huh? Announcing her candidacy for 2011 so soon! Wow. What do you think of her chances? I think she’s a shoo-in, but I’m admittedly a bit concerned about Prince Johnson making some last minute strides, especially amongst the Gio people in the Nimba region. I’m thinking of launching a letter writing campaign on behalf of EJ-S or at least cold calling potential Nimba voters over Skype.

Oh, how gauche of me! I’ve just been chattering away incessantly like some kind of boy or girl who talks a lot. I haven’t even properly introduced myself. Although, one often gets the uneasy sense that patriarchy dictates a learned and ultimately damaging order of events with men taking an unearned lead. My name is Terri, with a heart over the i, instead of a dot. I have a heart, is what that says, and I’m not afraid to wear it on my sleeve.

So what do you think? Would you like to take me up on my offer for you to buy me that drink?

If you would like to respond, that would be wonderful. Of course, if you would like to continue to sit here silently, staring at me with that powerful gaze, which both breaks gender constructs and also scares me a bit, that would be fine as well.

Texas in Africa recently interviewed Zachariah Mampilly about the release of his new book, Rebel Rulers: Insurgent Governance and Civilian Life During War.

What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents.

In case you didn’t hear, the United State Postal Service is close to shutting down completely.

The “visible hand” of Google, both metaphorically and a literal hand in a Google Books page, on the book industry:

In such circumstances, the failure of public institutions gives rise to the circular logic that dominates political debate. Public institutions can fail; public institutions need tax revenue; therefore we must reduce the support for public institutions. The resulting failures then supply more anecdotes supporting the view that public institutions fail by design rather than by political choice.


Google officials, promoting their effort to scan millions of books purchased with public money [e.g. University of California, University of Michigan —N.C.] and donated by shortsighted universities, claimed they were trying to preserve libraries and perform an essential public service—just the sort of service that our great university libraries could have been working toward had they been allowed to succeed. Publicly supported institutions fail, so we leap into the arms of the private actor, ready to believe its sweet nothings.

The hand–always the synecdoche for the worker (the mediator between the head and the hand, we learn in Metropolis, must be the heart)–is inserted literally into our view of the text, disrupting for a moment our sense that Google Books are, quite simply, books that have been “put online,” as if books themselves could simply leap media and enter a disembodied realm. The intrusion of the hand shows us that these are photographs (of a sort) and that someone must have made them.

In an inversion of our usual intuition that images are less mediated than text, these hands make us realize that Google Books made us feel as though digital texts were unmediated–were the books themselves. In contrast, the awareness that the digital object is an OCRed image of text–a photograph of its own scene of production, complete with visual evidence of the hand that wrought it–forces us to acknowledge the strange backwards ekphrasis (text to image to fallen, “corrupted” text–OCR is a silent diplomatic edition) in a Google Book, the labor by which it was created and uploaded, and the person who labored, now knowable only through the operative, synecdochal appendages that both create and corrupt the digital object.

What happens when you celebrate your birthday on facebook three times in one month?

I’m assuming you heard about the college student who joined the Libyan rebels for fun.

From April, The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries

When we don’t get the results we want in our military endeavors, we don’t blame the soldiers. We don’t say, “It’s these lazy soldiers and their bloated benefits plans! That’s why we haven’t done better in Afghanistan!” No, if the results aren’t there, we blame the planners. We blame the generals, the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. No one contemplates blaming the men and women fighting every day in the trenches for little pay and scant recognition.

When we don’t like the way our students score on international standardized tests, we blame the teachers. When we don’t like the way particular schools perform, we blame the teachers and restrict their resources.

Compare this with our approach to our military: when results on the ground are not what we hoped, we think of ways to better support soldiers. We try to give them better tools, better weapons, better protection, better training. And when recruiting is down, we offer incentives.


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