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Showing posts from March 5, 2023

The miniaturist of the apocalypse: Alfred Polgar

  Alfred Polgar is a name that rings no chimes in the good old Anglosphere. His great fan, Clive James, the Australian essayist, tried to remedy that situation in his mini-encyclopedia, Cultural Amnesia; however, the effect of his article on Polgar is to make him seem untranslateable and forever in the corner pocket of the Habsburg Empire freaks out there. Unfair! From the classic New Yorker talk of the town piece to Nicholson Baker, miniaturism has had an honourable place in English language lit. Polgar has a distinct family resemblance. His great period was in the interwar era – which, for German writers, ended in Germany in 1933, and in Austria a little later. Polgar was resolutely modern, a cinephile, a presence at the great modernist theatre events, Piscator and such. He was, ultimately, a reviewer – except what he reviewed was often a moment of streetlife, a smell from his childhood. The quintessence of his art is in a little piece entitled “Orange Peel”. Here he reviews the reac


  According to the Littre, the word grève – strike – comes from the Grève – the strip along the Seine behind the Hotel de Ville where, in the 18 th century, people hung out looking for work. There are places like that in all cities – in Austin, Texas, for instance, I remember working for someone who picked up day laborers down near I-35 in the center of the City. I believe that has moved since I left that town. But they will be somewhere – the day-by-days, the desperate, the Barbaric Yawp you can hire for minimum, pick em up at 8, drive em down there at 5. That, according to Littre, the grève became a linguistic extension of that desperation – the worker becoming, voluntarily, the non-worker – is an etymology to be pondered. Michelle Perrot, a historian known for her feminism, wrote a book in the wake of 1968: Workers on Strike in France, 1871-1890. Her purpose, besides the strictly historical one, was to understand the strike not as an empty form, but as a social complex. At one

Longtermism - it's a gas

  It is weird, to me, that philosophers and pundits think of “human extinction” as some kind of rapture. Would it be bad, would it be good?  There's  a typical example in Aeon which is so high minded it leaves the mind completely., The go-to people regarding human extinction are not philosophers. The go-to people are engineers especially in petrochemicals. I want to say: read a book! Specifically, Alan  Weisman’s The World Without Us. Weisman, unlike such sage philosophers as William (best friend of Elon Musk) Macaskill and Derek Parfitt, actually noticed a few things. For instance, “one of the most monumental constructs that human beings have imposed on the planet’s surface. The industrial megaplex that begins on the east side of Houstaon and continues uninterrupted to the Gulf of Mexico, 50 miles away, is the largest concentration of petroleum refineries, petrochemical companies, and storage structures on Earth.” This was written in 2007. There are probably larger concentrati