Everything a Map Can Be

I really enjoyed reading about this episode in Henry David Thoreau’s career as a surveyor, in which he was hired to map a river in his home town to settle a water usage dispute, but turned in a map that showed so much more than just territory: it showed the life lived along its banks. Everything this radical kind of mapping entails goes beyond this river, providing stark contrast against the settlement patterns of American history, and the way we map the world today.

– via Places Journal

Against Popular Culture

There is so much meat to chew on in this essay discussing Adorno’s views on art and popular culture. What is the function of art? What is the danger of its commercialization? What is all this easy entertainment doing to us?

– via aeon.co (to whom I recently subscribed, because it’s hard to find writing this interesting and this accessible these days, and finding it consistently is worth way more than they charge for a subscription)

Photography That Treats Dementia

It’s tempting to think of art as a purely aesthetic pursuit, a process that generates beautiful things to hang on the walls of galleries and homes, but artists, can use their skills to create art that does other things too. In this case, Laurence Aëgerter has collected photographs, both his and others’, to create a book that, in its strange pairings, works to keep the mind active, treating dementia. It’s inspiring to see such cross-disciplinary work; the world needs more of such boundaries blurred.

– via Hyperallergic

Parlez-Nous A Boire

One of my favorite songs in the world is “Parlez-Nous A Boire,” or “Let’s talk about drinking.” The title alone, which is also the first line in the song, is enough to get it on my list, but the next line is “and not about marriage.” A great old good-natured pessimistic Cajun song, lyrically speaking, and with all the whinnying fiddles, driving beat, and archaic harmonies to boot. The kind of song old enough to have no author, but rather seems to have accreted into reality long ago in a community and place that now seems very far away. My favorite version is Sweet Crude’s version here. They take this great up tempo folk song and turn it into a weirdly haunting barnburner.

Badass Women

It’s painfully obvious to anyone paying attention that history tends to be a little (a lot), well, skewed toward the male side of things. All the big decisions, we are taught, are made by men. Ditto for all the big innovations, and its always men that seem to be making the big differences in the course of nations and cultures. All bullshit, of course: women have been along for the ride every step of the way, insistently making their own difference, and the blatant interference of the patriarchy means that the women who fought hard enough to make a difference are unequivocally badass. Take Anita Brenner, for example, I doubt you’ve heard of her (I hadn’t). A Mexican-born, American Jew, disowned by pretty much all three adjectives in that label, finds herself up in the middle of the post-Mexican Revolution explosion of arts that included the likes of Diego Rivera, Clemente Orozco, and, of course, Frida Khalo. Brenner was convinced that art had a vital role to play in the establishment of Mexican identity post-revolution, and her steadfast efforts to nurture, connect, and promote Mexican art makes her one badass woman, and an absolute hero to me. Let’s face it: the world wouldn’t be worth half the nonsense we have to endure if it wasn’t for badass women like Anita Brenner.

Which makes me wonder: what other badass women am I totally unaware of? Not just Marie Curie or Hillary Clinton, who’s fame matches their accomplishments. Who do you feel hasn’t been recognized? Enlighten me in the comments! Let’s stop talking about outspoken men of weak intellect and self-image issues and talk more about badass women. Demand more badass women in the history books!!!

Against Argument

Because there’s no shortage of writing about politics (if thats still what we’re calling it these days), I’m especially refreshed when I read a new and well-considered viewpoint on what is, obviously enough to me and a few other people, more than an issue of ideology or personality. Our world is shaped by our decisions and behaviors, often in unexpected ways. Adam Thirlwell of the Paris Review does a great job here of relating ourselves to this world we’ve inadvertently created.