Author Topic: In the New Yorker...  (Read 862866 times)

Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2330 on: February 19, 2020, 02:28:35 pm »
Over lunch I was reading Hilton Als on Louis C.K., and the language had me thinking, WWMSS? (What would Mr. Shawn say?)
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

Offline serious crayons

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2331 on: February 19, 2020, 04:31:03 pm »
Over lunch I was reading Hilton Als on Louis C.K., and the language had me thinking, WWMSS? (What would Mr. Shawn say?)

I'm sure Mr. Shawn has turned over in his grave so may times by now they had to reinstall the tombstone and replant the grass.

Was the Hilton Als piece good? I always hear him praised so highly but I have trouble getting into his pieces.





Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2332 on: February 19, 2020, 05:21:52 pm »
Was the Hilton Als piece good? I always hear him praised so highly but I have trouble getting into his pieces.

I could take it or leave it. Not good, not bad. I read him because he's there. I wouldn't miss him if he wasn't. Mainly I read it because I knew Louis C.K. had got caught in sexual improprieties, and I wanted to read what Als had to say about it.
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

Offline serious crayons

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2333 on: February 19, 2020, 10:05:17 pm »
I could take it or leave it. Not good, not bad. I read him because he's there. I wouldn't miss him if he wasn't. Mainly I read it because I knew Louis C.K. had got caught in sexual improprieties, and I wanted to read what Als had to say about it.

And then not only that but that C.K. attempted a return -- this time as someone who seemed to accept the creepy things he had joked about before. It's a sordid story, and I can't tell from my own sentence whether that makes me especially want to read it or especially not to.

Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2334 on: February 20, 2020, 10:05:08 am »
I finished the profile on Harari last night.

I might start this one at lunch today, but I'm also looking forward to the article about Britain's land, and the one about slavery reenactments ("The Fugitive Cure").

And I just noticed that there seems to be a new TV critic!
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

Offline serious crayons

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2335 on: February 20, 2020, 10:09:48 am »

Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2336 on: February 21, 2020, 09:54:43 am »
I finished the profile on Harari last night.

I'm reading that now. I don't find the article, or him, particularly engaging. I haven't finished it yet, so I haven't come to the "who cares?" conclusion, but as I read it, I find myself thinking, Maybe he's right that the invention of agriculture sowed the seeds of the eventual destruction of Homo sapiens, but it seems a little strange that someone who has benefited from thousands of years of civilization would be complaining about or condemning civilization.

Without civilization, the lives of Homo sapiens would no doubt be "nasty, brutish, and short."
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Offline Front-Ranger

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2337 on: February 21, 2020, 12:11:19 pm »
I've been rethinking the roots of civilization lately after reading about early cultures in the Americas. We've been taught to think that real civilization started when people stopped wandering, settled down, started agriculture and formed cities. But there are other models if you look at indigenous populations outside of the borders of Mesopotamia. In Central America, there were cultures who farmed and were settled that lasted thousands of years. They followed sustainable practices, not having the advantages of being in a flood plain between the Tigris and Euphrates.

Harari is thinking big but not big enough. His lens is the Jewish and proto-Jewish cultures of the Middle East. If he knows anything about other cultures, he has dismissed them or is excluding them. His bias is showing. Of course, I've only read the article, not the books, and I plan to.
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Offline serious crayons

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2338 on: February 21, 2020, 02:00:59 pm »
I'm still struggling through the first part of the profile, which seems much more about his husband than about Harari. So far the piece has divulged very little about what has made Harari famous and successful, except where it has very briefly touched on The Singularity. I haven't reached the future part of his book, so I'll withhold judgment but I don't really buy into the whole Singularity thing, but maybe he'll convince me.

it seems a little strange that someone who has benefited from thousands of years of civilization would be complaining about or condemning civilization.

Without civilization, the lives of Homo sapiens would no doubt be "nasty, brutish, and short."


Was Hobbes talking about hunter-gatherer life, or just life without a central government? In any case, I can't imagine 17th-century Europeans were all that knowledgeable about prehistory.

I wouldn't say Harari is condemning civilization per se. He's saying hunter-gatherer life was, in some ways, less nasty and brutish back then than we like to think. It was short, no doubt, because an infected cut, poison berry, intertribal conflict or attack by a saber-tooth tiger (or whatever they had back then) could kill people at a young age, bringing the average lifespan way down.

And yes, I'm sure Harari recognizes that civilization has made his own life more comfortable and enriched. The argument is that hunter gatherers as a whole were, some ways, more comfortable. More leisure time, less viral or chronic disease, less dependence on successful crops to avoid starvation, etc. And that while it's easy for Harari or for us to say our lives are way better because of agriculture and consequent civilization, his point is that many, many people in the world still do not share those benefits, even now, let alone for the past however many millennia.

So he's not really tossing out his computer and complaining that he himself can't live on a nice soft bed of leaves in the forest.

I have an article he wrote on this topic on a tab on my computer. I'll try to read it over lunch.


Harari is thinking big but not big enough. His lens is the Jewish and proto-Jewish cultures of the Middle East. If he knows anything about other cultures, he has dismissed them or is excluding them. His bias is showing. Of course, I've only read the article, not the books, and I plan to.

Actually he writes quite extensively about other parts of the world. For example, the one that comes to mind is how quickly and brutally a small number of Spaniards managed to destroy longstanding Latin American cultures like the Incas and Aztecs. He takes examples from all over the place -- including many from this country. His book starts out with the evolution of homo sapiens, so by necessity it's in a particular part of the world, but he follows as humans spread through Europe and other continents. One interesting part is his exploration of how Europeans managed to subdue and colonize other cultures, partly because non-European cultures didn't take as much interest in exploring the world outside their own areas, let alone conquering other places.

 


Offline serious crayons

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2339 on: February 21, 2020, 04:27:31 pm »
This wasn't the article i was looking for, but here's a science publication with a pretty concise summary of the anti-ag argument, which actually long predates Harari, though it quotes him, too.

https://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2015/03/the_agricultural_revolution_historys_biggest_fraud.html


And here are some excerpts from Sapiens on Harari's website regarding agriculture and other things.

https://www.ynharari.com/topic/money-and-politics/