Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Correspondence: What it feels like

Edited by Moristotle

This nature column is interactive! Enjoy: “You’re a Bee. This Is What It Feels Like.” [Joanna Klein, NY Times, December 2]. Excerpt:
Set your meetings, phone calls, and emails aside, at least for the next several minutes. That’s because today you’re a bee.
    It’s time to leave your hive, or your underground burrow, and forage for pollen. Pollen is the stuff that flowers use to reproduce. But it’s also essential grub for you, other bees in your hive and your larvae. Once you’ve gathered pollen to take home, you or another bee will mix it with water and flower nectar that other bees have gathered and stored in the hive. But how do you decide which flowers to approach? What draws you in?
    In a review published last week in the journal Functional Ecology, researchers asked: What is a flower like from a bee’s perspective, and what does the pollinator experience as it gathers pollen? And that’s why we’re talking to you in the second person: to help you understand how bees like you, while hunting for pollen, use all of your senses — taste, touch, smell and more — to decide what to pick up and bring home.
    Maybe you're ready to go find some pollen. But do you even know where to look?
    [Good question. How about an answer?]
    [No, I’m an expert bee. Get me out of this hive.] [read more]

Trevor Noah, far left, with his cousins
in Johannesburg in an undated photo
The whole point of apartheid was to divide the population and render them easier to rule: “Let’s Not Be Divided. Divided People Are Easier to Rule.” [Trevor Noah, NY Times, December 5]. Excerpt:
When I took over “The Daily Show” from Jon Stewart in 2015, I was surprised to learn that my job as a late-night comedy host was not merely to entertain but to eviscerate — to attack, crush, demolish and destroy the opponents of liberal, progressive America. Very quickly, people from some quarters — mostly those same liberal progressives — criticized me for not maintaining the minimum acceptable levels of daily evisceration that were established by my predecessor.
    The truth is that Jon never liked being labeled the Great Eviscerator. He didn’t think it was healthy, and he always tried to think about the details of issues with a healthy dose of skepticism before going on air and putting his ideas out into the world. But through the lens of the internet, that’s not what people saw. In the early days of the blogosphere and YouTube and social media, people took Jon’s most strident commentary and made it go viral with clickbait headlines, blowing those segments way out of proportion, compared with the more thoughtful segments that made up most of the television show. And, unfortunately, when we look back today, the evisceration (and exasperation) is what most people remember.
    The experience of stepping into Jon’s shoes brought on enormous culture shock for me. In South Africa, where I come from, we also use comedy to critique and analyze, and while we don’t let our politicians off the hook, we don’t eviscerate one another. If anything, my stand-up shows back home are a place where we can push away the history of apartheid’s color classifications — where black, white, colored and Indian people use laughter to deal with shared trauma and pain. In South Africa, comedy brings us together. In America, it pulls us apart. [read more]
Trevor Noah interviews Van Jones, a cofounder of the nonprofit organization Dream Corps, a “social justice accelerator”:

Veterans at Standing Rock shock tribe members, beg forgiveness for war crimes against tribal nations: “Forgiveness Ceremony at Standing Rock brings together Native Americans and Veterans” [Helen H. Richardson, Denver Post, December 5]. Excerpt:
FORT YATES, N.D. — Native Americans conducted a forgiveness ceremony with U.S. veterans at the Four Prairie Knights Casino & Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Dec. 5, 2016 in Fort Yates, North Dakota. A group of veterans present asked for forgiveness from Tribal representatives for military actions conducted against Natives throughout history. The emotional ceremony was held in celebration of Standing Rock protesters’ victory Sunday in halting construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline. [read more]

J.D. Vance
Review: “In ‘Hillbilly Elegy,’ a Tough Love Analysis of the Poor Who Back Trump” [Jennifer Senior, NY Times, August 10]. Excerpt:
In late July, The American Conservative ran an interview with J. D. Vance that drew so much traffic it briefly crippled the central nervous system of the magazine’s website. The interviewer’s last line implored readers to have a look at Mr. Vance’s publishing debut, “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.” Ever since, his book has hovered at high altitude on Amazon, seldom dipping below No. 10.
    After reading “Hillbilly Elegy,” you can easily understand why. This is a historically peculiar election cycle, boisterously disrupted by outsiders, one of whom found the perfect host body in the Republican Party and became its presidential nominee. An investigation of voter estrangement has never felt more urgent, and we’re certainly not getting one from the lacquered chatterers on the boob tube.
    Now, along comes Mr. Vance, offering a compassionate, discerning sociological analysis of the white underclass that has helped drive the politics of rebellion, particularly the ascent of Donald J. Trump. Combining thoughtful inquiry with firsthand experience, Mr. Vance has inadvertently provided a civilized reference guide for an uncivilized election, and he’s done so in a vocabulary intelligible to both Democrats and Republicans. [read more]
J. D. Vance’s home town of Middletown, Ohio
This is a good article on J. D. Vance: “The Lives of Poor White People” [Joshua Rothman, New Yorker, September 12]. Excerpt:
“I grew up poor, in the Rust Belt, in an Ohio steel town that has been hemorrhaging jobs and hope for as long as I can remember.” That’s how J. D. Vance begins one of this campaign season’s saddest and most fascinating books, “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” (Harper). Vance was born in Kentucky and raised by his grandparents, as a self-described “hillbilly,” in Middletown, Ohio, home of the once-mighty Armco Steel. His family struggled with poverty and domestic violence, of which he was a victim. His mother was addicted to drugs—first to painkillers, then to heroin. Many of his neighbors were jobless and on welfare. Vance escaped their fate by joining the Marines and serving in Iraq. Afterward, he attended Ohio State and Yale Law School, where he was mentored by Amy Chua, the law professor and tiger mom. He now lives in San Francisco, where he works at Mithril Capital Management, the investment firm helmed by Peter Thiel. It seems safe to say that Vance, who is now in his early thirties, has seen a wider swath of America than most people.
    Had “Hillbilly Elegy” been published last year, or the year before, it still would have found readers: it’s a detailed and moving account of American struggle. This year, though, the book has been adopted by an unusually large and passionate audience. The name Trump never appears in the book, which was written, presumably, before his capture of the Republican Party. Still, anti-Trump conservatives have responded to its largely empathetic portrait of poor, white Americans, which they see as an alternative to the less sympathetic theories about Trump’s least affluent supporters—“They’re all racist,” essentially—that have become popular on the left. Earlier this summer, Rod Dreher, the intellectually restless American Conservative columnist, wrote that “Hillbilly Elegy” “does for poor white people what Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book did for poor black people: give them voice and presence in the public square.” Liberal readers may bristle at the comparison—Vance, to be clear, is a white conservative—but Dreher has a point. Just as the death of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, persuaded many non-black people to read “Between the World and Me,” so the success of Donald Trump has persuaded many people who have never visited the wrecked towns of the Rust Belt to read “Hillbilly Elegy.” Dreher’s interview with Vance—“Trump: Tribune of Poor White People[]”—was so popular that it crashed The American Conservative’s servers. “Hillbilly Elegy” is now in second place on the Times nonfiction best-seller list. [read more]
A Trump protest song:

Grateful for correspondence, Moristotle


  1. Good stuff Morris. Not sure I would spend the money on the book however.

  2. Thanks, Ed. Yeah, me too - I'd borrow the Trevor Noah & J.D. Vance books from a library.