Briefly noted: The Economist looks at “bits and ballots”

To paraphrase a line attributed to Trotsky, you may not be interested in tech, but tech is interested in you. The current issue of The Economist contains not only an editorial but also an entire multi-article special report on technology and politics (read my final note before clicking). The entire package is worth reading whether or not you already have a grasp of the promise and the threat of digital technologies. As the editorial concludes, “The original vision of the internet, as a self-governing cyber-Utopia, has long since been consigned to history.… But it remains a public good. The danger is that the centralisation of data may undo many of the democratic gains that social media and other technologies have brought.”

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All singing! All dancing! All killing! American Psycho comes to Broadway

Tales of connivers, criminals, and killers have a long history in our culture, but Bret Easton Ellis’s novel American Psycho—about a Wall Street investment banker whose notion of making a killing is literal—struck some people the wrong way when it came out, in 1991. In fact, its original publisher backed out before publication, and the rights were sold to another house. Its violence against women was decried; its author received hate mail and death threats; The New York Times Book Review published a piece headlined “Snuff This Book!”

I haven’t read the novel, but c’mon—look at the title. Continue reading

The world is full of actors: a photo of Mireille Enos

Francis Thompson felt that the world was full of angels: “Turn but a stone, and start a wing!,” he wrote. While it lacks a certain something, one might say the same about actors, for our entertainment-saturated world seems to abound in them; turn but a stone, and start a thespian. One I discovered a few years ago is Mireille Enos, who played a leading role in The Killing, an American TV drama based on a Danish show called Forbrydelsen. Many viewers took it as essentially a crime story and were disappointed when the end of its first season failed to resolve the case with which it had begun, but in truth it dramatized a view of the world as much as anything else, and a good deal of its view was embodied in Enos, whose character seemed always to be harried, doubting, or in pain.

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Sports as opera: Red Speedo at NYTW

Red Speedo 6, by Joan Marcus

Peter Jay Fernandez, Alex Breaux, and Lucas Caleb Rooney in NYTW’s production of Red Speedo (photo by Joan Marcus)

Lucas Hnath’s Red Speedo, which runs for 80 minutes with no intermission, is as lithe and lean as the swimmer who begins it with a literal splash—clad only in a red racing suit, he plunges into a narrow, glass-fronted pool that makes up part of the set. At first, Ray, the swimmer, seems almost tangential to the action, as his brother (Peter, a lawyer who manages Ray’s career) and his coach debate the matter of some performance-enhancing drugs that have turned up in the swim club’s refrigerator, which are thought to belong to someone else. But Ray proves to be far from passive outside the pool; it’s soon clear that his ambitions go way beyond an upcoming Olympic trial, as do Peter’s, and Ray’s coach and his former girlfriend become figures to be used or maneuvered around.

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Gleanings: from recent reading on mental disorders, journalism, and consciousness

From “Seeing the Spectrum,” an article on autism, by Steven Shapin, in the 1/25/16 New Yorker:

There are obvious ways in which the history of autism can be seen as progressive: the quality of life for many people receiving a spectrum diagnosis has undoubtedly improved. Yet this same history has come under attack from proponents of so-called medicalization theory. This set of views, loosely linked to the work of Michel Foucault, criticizes the modern tendency to recategorize human behaviors as medical pathologies demanding expert diagnosis and care. For some writers and activists, medicalization is just a power grab, and its arch-villains are a greedy pharmaceutical industry and an arrogant psychiatric profession, which together have pushed pills for states of mind about which nothing can be done, or should be done, and which rightly belong to the realm of individual moral responsibility. The disease categories developed by modern psychiatry and psychology—such things as social anxiety disorder and mixed anxiety-depressive disorder—have been among the most popular targets for the critics of medicalization, as is autism.

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