The Fungal Evangelist Who Would Save the Bees

Merlin Sheldrake in Nautilus:

If anyone knows about going fungal, it’s Paul Stamets. I have often wondered whether he has been infected with a fungus that fills him with mycological zeal—and an irrepressible urge to persuade humans that fungi are keen to partner with us in new and peculiar ways. I went to visit him at his home on the west coast of Canada. The house is balanced on a granite bluff, looking out to sea. The roof is suspended on beams that look like mushroom gills. A Star Trek fan since the age of 12, Stamets christened his new house Starship Agarikon—agarikon is another name for Laricifomes officinalislpl竞猜官网, a medicinal wood-rotting fungus that grows in the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

lpl竞猜官网…In Stamets’ world, fungal solutions run amok. Give him an insoluble problem and he’ll toss you a new way it can be decomposed, poisoned, or healed by a fungus. Fungi are veteran survivors of ecological disruption. Their ability to cling on—and often flourish—through periods of catastrophic change is one of their defining characteristics. They are inventive, flexible, and collaborative. With much of life on Earth threatened by human activity, are there ways we can partner with fungi to help us adapt? Stamets and a growing number of mycologists think exactly this. Many symbioses have formed in times of crisis. The algal partner in a lichen can’t make a living on bare rock without striking up a relationship with a fungus. Might it be that we can’t adjust to life on a damaged planet without cultivating new fungal relationships?

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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Qian Zhongzhu Should Win the Nobel

Brendan O’Kane in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

Qian Zhongshu (1910-1998)

lpl竞猜官网Qian Zhongshu is a tough pitch to win the Nobel prize in literature this year. He’s dead, for starters – traditionally an obstacle to many things, including winning Nobel prizes – and his total creative output consists solely of a few essays, several short stories, and a single novel. On the other hand, that novel, , seems to me to be the high-water mark of something significant, if hard to explain, so I’m going to make my best case for it being enough to secure Qian’s place in history. The book takes its title from a French proverb, sets its action in the China of the 1930s, and tracks the misfortunes of Fang Hongjian, a feckless, cowardly student returning from Europe with a mail-order doctorate in Chinese from an American university that exists only in the imagination of a crooked Irishman. It may be one of the most cosmopolitan books ever written; certainly it is, as literary critic C. T. Hsia said, one of the greatest Chinese novels of the 20th century.

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How To Know When You Can Trust A COVID-19 Vaccine

Maggie Koerth in Five Thirty-Eight:

If a COVID-19 vaccine went on the market before Election Day,  said she’s not sure she’d take it. And she’s not alone. , a majority of Americans — 62 percent — said they were worried that the Trump administration would pressure the Food and Drug Administration to release a vaccine before it’s ready, and 54 percent said they simply wouldn’t take that hypothetical vaccine at all, even if it were free.

Scientists around the world are currently undertaking one of the fastest vaccine-development programs in history, trying to get the novel coronavirus under control as quickly as humanly possible. But the vaccines being tested sit at a nexus of misinformation and mistrust. Between Trump’s  in ,  about , and  around , it’s easy to find yourself floundering, unsure who you can trust.

So I spoke with a handful of people who really know how vaccines, clinical trials and COVID-19 work to find out how to know when it’s a good idea to get the vaccine. They offered these four pieces of advice.

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An interview with Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin on the climate crisis, COVID-19, and the future of environmental politics

Noam Chomsky, Robert Pollin, and C. J. Polychroniou in the Boston Review:

C. J. Polychroniou: How does the coronavirus pandemic, and the response to it, shed light on how we should think about climate change and the prospects for a global Green New Deal?

Noam Chomsky:lpl竞猜官网 At the time of writing, concern for the COVID-19 crisis is virtually all-consuming. That’s understandable. It is severe and is severely disrupting lives. But it will pass, though at horrendous cost, and there will be recovery. There will not be recovery from the melting of the arctic ice sheets and the other consequences of global warming.

Not everyone is ignoring the advancing existential crisis. The sociopaths dedicated to accelerating the disaster continue to pursue their efforts, relentlessly. As before, Trump and his courtiers take pride in leading the race to destruction. As the United States was becoming the epicenter of the pandemic, thanks in no small measure to their folly, the White House cabal released its budget proposals. As expected, the proposals call for even deeper cuts in healthcare support and environmental protection, instead favoring the bloated military and the building of Trump’s Great Wall. And to add an extra touch of sadism, “ promotes a fossil fuel ‘energy boom’ in the United States, including an increase in the production of natural gas and crude oil.”

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When Murakami Came to the States

David Karashima in The Paris Review:

On May 10, 1989, Haruki Murakami’s editor at Kodansha International, Elmer Luke, sent Murakami a fax reporting on the sale of U.S. paperback rights to A Wild Sheep Chase (to Plume for fifty-five thousand dollars) and asking him to take part in the promotional activities that were scheduled in New York that fall. Murakami declined. Several months later, Luke and Murakami met in person for the first time in Tokyo (together with another editor from KI), and on August 14, just three days before a copy of A Wild Sheep Chase arrived at the Murakamis’ home, Luke again asked Murakami to join him in New York. Murakami once again declined. On September 24, Luke asked again, saying that Murakami’s translator Alfred Birnbaum had become unable to attend, and that they had also managed to arrange an interview with the New York Times. Murakami finally relented.

Murakami and his wife, Yoko, landed in New York on October 21, and Luke and Tetsu Shirai, the head of Kodansha’s New York offices, picked them up at the airport. Shirai remembers handing Murakami a copy of that day’s New York Times folded open to a story in the arts section about him and A Wild Sheep Chase. The headline, “Young and Slangy Mix of the U.S. and Japan,” was followed by a tagline: “A best-selling novelist makes his American debut with a quest story.” “Of course, it was something that had been in the works,” Shirai tells me, “but I was surprised by how well the timing worked out.”

Shirai and Luke had chosen a hotel on the Upper East Side, thinking Murakami, an avid runner, would like to be near Central Park. Ten years later, Murakami would write in an essay for the women’s magazine an an that, while he preferred the Village and SoHo with its many bookshops and secondhand record stores, he ends up staying uptown in New York because “the appeal of running in Central Park in the morning is too great.”

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The Gentle Genius of Mervyn Peake

Daisy Dunn at The Spectator:

To be a good illustrator, said Mervyn Peake, it is necessary to do two things. The first is to subordinate yourself entirely to the book. The second is ‘to slide into another man’s soul’.

In 1933, at the age of 22, Peake did precisely that. Relinquishing his studies at the Royal Academy Schools to move to Sark, in the Channel Islands, he co-founded an artists’ colony and took to sketching fishermen and romantic, ripple-lapped coves. He put a gold hoop in his right ear, a red-lined cape over his shoulders, and grew his hair long, like Israel Hands or Long John Silver.

The incredible thing was that he had yet to receive his commission to illustrate Treasure Islandlpl竞猜官网. By the time the job came through, in the late 1940s, he had been sliding into more piratical souls for more than 20 years.

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How to Make a Bodega Sandwich

Zain Khalid at The Believer:

To properly construct a bodega sandwich, sammich, hoagie, or sub, it is helpful to first consider Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa. lpl竞猜官网Forget for a second that this painting ushered in the dawn of Romanticism. Instead, study the shipwrecked subjects, the fifteen men with faces longer than hymns who endured their own appetites for thirteen days at sea.

Bodegas often serve those who can’t or won’t eat elsewhere. Bodegas are cheap, accept EBT cards, and employ polyglot cashiers who can translate a purposeful nod into a chopped cheese. Where else to go after a longer-than-expected trip across an ocean? Where else can the impossibly hungry go? Think about all this while selecting a bread. When in doubt, choose the plain hero. It should be between one and three days old.

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The Election That Could Break America

Barton Gellman in The Atlantic:

lpl竞猜官网The danger is not merely that the 2020 election will bring discord. Those who fear something worse take turbulence and controversy for granted. The coronavirus pandemic, a reckless incumbent, a deluge of mail-in ballots, a vandalized Postal Service, a resurgent effort to suppress votes, and a trainload of lawsuits are bearing down on the nation’s creaky electoral machinery.

…Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged. Trump’s invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before.

…Conventional commentary has trouble facing this issue squarely. Journalists and opinion makers feel obliged to add disclaimers when asking  Trump loses and refuses to concede. “The scenarios all seem far-fetched,” Politico , quoting a source who compared them to science fiction. Former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, , could not bring herself to treat the risk as real: “That a president would defy the results of an election has long been unthinkable; it is now, if not an actual possibility, at the very least something Trump’s supporters joke about.” But Trump’s supporters aren’t the only people who think extra­constitutional thoughts aloud. Trump has been asked directly, during both this campaign and the last, whether he will respect the election results. He left his options brazenly open. “What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. Okay?”

More . (Note: Thanks to Mohsin Hamid)

Thursday Poem

“Maybe the greatest miracle is memory” – Brian Doyle

Father Joe

The holiest moments
were those curse words
Father Joe muttered under
his breath when some asshole
walked down the aisle or when, shit,
the choir started in too early. I always
volunteered to sit on his right so I could
hold the Bible open leaned in against my
sternum, Jesus Christ, as he read the Liturgy of the Word.
He’d gently, damnit, slide the long tassels across the pages
like a blessing. I still follow his eyes as he reads, arms
bent up from his elbows tucked into his side, palms up
Glory Be to the Highest, sonofabitch, listening
for those curse words in that sacred syntax.

by Michael Garrigan

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Verne Edquist (1931-2020) – Glenn Gould’s Piano Man

Katie Hafner at the website of the Glenn Gould Foundation:

lpl竞猜官网Verne Edquist, a master piano tuner who spent most of his professional life working for one client – Glenn Gould – died peacefully on August 27 after a long illness. He was 89.

lpl竞猜官网I first met Verne in the summer of 2004, when I traveled to Toronto to start research for a book about Gould’s beloved CD-318. Verne and his wife, Lillian, welcomed me into their house on the outskirts of town and we sat for several hours in their living room, my recording device whirring away, while Verne recounted his life, and his work with the very eccentric Glenn Gould.

It was the start of an acquaintanceship that endured well past the publication of my book, .

During that first meeting, I heard about the late-night recording sessions. Verne always arrived early to start tuning. Even after he finished tuning, he was required to stay throughout the session, in the event that a note should slip out of tune. I also heard about Gould’s endearingly bizarre coffee orders, his despair over the damaged CD-318, and his desperate calls to Verne late in his life, while re-recording The Goldberg Variations on a Yamaha.

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Sean Carroll’s Mindscape Podcast: Netta Engelhardt on Black Hole Information, Wormholes, and Quantum Gravity

Sean Carroll in Preposterous Universe:

Stephen Hawking made a number of memorable contributions to physics, but : what happens to information that falls into a black hole? The question sits squarely at the overlap of quantum mechanics and gravitation, an area in which direct experimental input is hard to come by, so a great number of leading theoretical physicists have been thinking about it for decades. Now there is a possibility that physicists might have made some progress, by showing how subtle effects relate the radiation leaving a black hole to what’s going on inside. Netta Engelhardt is one of the contributors to these recent advances, and together we go through the black hole information puzzle, why wormholes might be important to the story, and what it all might teach us about quantum gravity.

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This Soldier’s Witness to the Iraq War Lie

Frederic Wehrey in the New York Review of Books:

A few weeks before I deployed to Iraq as a young US military officer, in the spring of 2003, my French-born father implored me to watch lpl竞猜官网 Gillo Pontecorvo’s dramatic reenactment of the 1950s Algerian insurgency against French colonial rule. There are many political and aesthetic reasons to see this masterpiece of cinéma vérité, not least of which is its portrayal of the Algerian capital’s evocative old city, or Casbah. One winter morning in 2014, more than a decade after I first saw the film, I took a stroll down the Casbah’s rain-washed alleys and into the newer French-built city. Scenes from the black-and-white movie—like the landmark Milk Bar café where a female Algerian guerrilla sets off a bomb that kills French civilians—jumped to life. The ensuing French military response, memorably depicted in the film, included arbitrary arrests, torture, and “false flag” bombings that only inflamed the Algerian insurrection.

It was these moral perils of counterinsurgency that my father hinted at. “Keep your eyes open,” he told me. This was a prescient warning, one that served as the backdrop for my deployment, even if the Algerian analogy was imperfect and would become overused. As American soldiers soon faced a guerrilla and civil war in Iraq for which they were woefully ill-equipped, intellectually and militarily, The Battle of Algierslpl竞猜官网 would be . To this day, it is taught to West Point cadets as a cautionary tale.

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Transmissions: The Music of Beverly Glenn-Copeland

Sasha Geffen at Artforum:

A new compilation, , traces the artist’s career from his early days as a folk balladeer to his omnivorous current practice. Its narrative mirrors that of Posy Dixon’s 2019 documentary, Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story, which explores the years he spent working in obscurity, the realization of his identity as a transgender man in his fifties, and how in his seventies he came to be embraced by millennial listeners. The film captures part of a performance at Le Guess Who? in Utrecht, a full recording of which was released as a live album earlier this year. Dixon’s camera glides across the faces of a mostly young audience beaming at Glenn-Copeland and his band, composed of musicians in their twenties. This same crowd appears on Transmissions during “Deep River,” an exuberant live rendition of a well-known spiritual. Glenn-Copeland invites the audience to sing along with the song’s climax, and they do—tentatively at first, and then with gusto. When the band stops, he thanks the audience emphatically, an illustrative moment of genuine intergenerational interaction wisely included in the compilation.

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Vivian Gornick

Dayna Tortorici at the NYRB:

Because Gornick is foremost a memoirist, any tour of her work must contend with her autobiography as she tells it, in fragments. There is no single book in which she narrates her life story straight through; “truth in memoir,” she writes in The Situation and the Storylpl竞猜官网 (2001), “is achieved not through a recital of actual events.” Instead, each of her books marshals different pieces of her life in service of a central insight, whether she’s writing memoir, criticism, reportage, or a biography of someone else. She is dedicated to nonfiction as a genre, but has a novelist’s instinct for selection. To recount her biography chronologically thus requires some reconstruction.

Gornick was born in 1935 in the Bronx, the second child of working-class immigrant Jews. Her father, she recalls in The Romance of American Communismlpl竞猜官网, was a kind man who “stood upright on the floor of a dress factory on West 35th Street…with a steam iron in his hand for thirty years.” Her mother, a passionate woman with a rougher style of affection, kept house.

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Wednesday Poem

The Five Horses of Doctor Ramón Emeterio Betances

Mayaguez Puerto Rico 1856

I. The First Horse
Cholera swarmed unseen through the water, lurking in wells and fountains,
squirming in garbage and excrement, infinitesimal worms drilling the intestines,
till all the water and salt would pour from the body, till the body became a worm,
shriveling and writhing, a slug in salt, till the skin burned blue as flame, the skin
of the peasant and the skin of the slave gone blue, the skin in the slave barracks blue,
the skin of ten thousand slaves blue. The Blue Death, face hidden in a bandanna,
dug graves with the gravediggers, who fell into holes they shoveled for the dead.
lpl竞猜官网 The doctors died too, seeing the signs in the mirror, the hand with the razor shaking.

II. The Second Horse
Doctor Betances stepped off the boat, back from Paris, the humidity of the plague
glistening in his beard. He saw the stepmother who fed him sink into a mound
of dirt, her body empty as the husk of a locust in drought.He toweled off his hands.
In the quarantine tents there was laudanum by the bitter spoonful, the lemonade
and broth; in the dim of the kerosene lamps there was the compress cool against
the forehead, the elixir of the bark from the cinchona tree. For peasants and slaves
moaning to their gods, the doctor prescribed chilled champagne to soothe the belly.
lpl竞猜官网 For the commander of the Spanish garrison, there was silence bitter as the spoon.

III. The Third Horse
At every hacienda, at every plantation, as the bodies of slaves rolled one by one
into ditches all hipbones and ribs, drained of water and salt, stripped of names,
Doctor Betances commanded the torch for the barracks where the bodies would
tangle together, stacked up as if they never left the ship that sailed from Africa,
kept awake by the ravenous worms of the plague feasting upon them. Watching
the blue flames blacken the wood, the doctor and the slaves saw another plague
burning away, the plague of manacles scraping the skin from hands that cut
the cane, the plague of the collar with four spikes for the runaways brought back. Read more »

The Legal Fight Awaiting Us After the Election

Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker:

lpl竞猜官网The immediate aftermath of the  has taken on the air of legend. On Election Night, news organizations first called Florida for —then, about two hours later, withdrew the call and, about four hours after that, declared that , the governor of Texas, had won the state, giving him enough electoral votes to become President. Gore called Bush to concede, and left his hotel in a motorcade to announce the end of his campaign to his supporters. His aides, learning that the race in Florida was, in fact, too close to call, tried frantically to contact the Vice-President in his limousine. They reached him just in time, and he telephoned Bush to retract the concession. Bush indignantly told Gore that his “little brother”—the governor of Florida, Jeb Bush—had said that he had won. “Let me explain something,” Gore replied. “Your little brother is not the ultimate authority on this.”

lpl竞猜官网Like all historical events, the following thirty-five days can look, in retrospect, inevitable, even preordained. But they were a product of choice, improvisation, and happenstance. Gore demanded recounts in four Democratic-leaning counties, which began the painstaking process of studying their punch-card ballots and determining whether the tiny boxes known as chads had been fully detached. Bush responded by filing a lawsuit in federal court in Miami to stop the recounts. In one of the lesser-known events surrounding that case, James A. Baker III, Bush’s lead strategist at the time, called John C. Danforth, the former Republican senator from Missouri and an ordained minister, who was famous for his rectitude. Baker wanted Danforth to be Bush’s spokesman in the suit. Danforth was horrified. “Candidates don’t sue,” he told Baker. “You could ruin Governor Bush’s career. He’s only fifty-four years old, and the decision to file a court case like this would be a black mark that followed him forever. And it would destroy the reputation of everyone involved on the Bush side.”

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