CLR James on the ‘Surprisingly Moderate’ Reprisals of the Haitian Revolution

Here are two very powerful passages from CLR James‘ classic The Black Jacobins: Touissant L’Overture and the San Domingo Revolution (Vintage Books, second edition revised, New York, 1962, pp. 88-89): The slaves destroyed tirelessly. Like the peasants in the Jacquerie or the Luddite wreckers, they were seeking their salvation in the most obvious way, the destruction of what they knewContinue reading “CLR James on the ‘Surprisingly Moderate’ Reprisals of the Haitian Revolution”

On First and Second Languages – III

In this ongoing series of posts on partially mastered languages and my frustrating relationships with them, I’ve written about German and Spanish. Today, I come to the most vexed alliance of all, the one with Punjabi. My last name is a giveaway: I’m a Punjabi. But I’ve never lived in the Punjab. I did, however,Continue reading “On First and Second Languages – III”

Creationism, Climate Non-Change, And All That

Phillip Kitcher‘s Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism (MIT Press, 1982) makes for depressing reading. Not because of any problems with its arguments, style, or content, but rather because, even as you read it, you realize that though the book was published in 1982, essentially the same points–in addition to others that would bolster the scientific standingContinue reading “Creationism, Climate Non-Change, And All That”

The ‘Trickery’ of Robots

Maggie Koerth-Baker reports on a case of supposed trickery–(‘How Robots Can Trick You Into Loving Them‘, The New York Times, 17 September 2013)–that has come to light as robots become more ubiquitous and enter an increasing number of social spaces: In the future, more robots will occupy that strange gray zone: doing not only jobsContinue reading “The ‘Trickery’ of Robots”

Manil Suri on the Beauty and Beguilement of Mathematics

Manil Suri has an interesting Op-Ed on math–How To Fall In Love with Math–in The New York Times today. As befitting someone who is both a mathematician and a novelist, there are passages of writing in it that are both elegant and mathematically sound. The examples he provides of mathematical beauty–the natural numbers, n-sided regularContinue reading “Manil Suri on the Beauty and Beguilement of Mathematics”

The ‘Historic’ Statue Toppling That Wasn’t

In his essay ‘The Toppling: How the media inflated a minor moment in a long war‘ (The New Yorker, January 20, 2011), Peter Maass provides, by way of context and background, a useful deflationary account of the famous toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdos Square on April 9, 2003. The statue’sContinue reading “The ‘Historic’ Statue Toppling That Wasn’t”

The Baby Industrial Complex

When you bring home a baby, you bring home something else as well: a subscription, a ticket to a strange new domain, one populated by goods designed and manufactured for babies–and their parents–to better equip them for all of life’s supposed challenges, to train, dress, entertain, edify, and amuse them. An industry of industries churnsContinue reading “The Baby Industrial Complex”

‘Prohibited’ and ‘Acceptable’ Weapons and Targets in War

In my last two posts on Syria on these pages–here and here–I’ve tried to express my discomfort at the threat made by the US to launch cruise missile strikes in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. In them, I was trying to make a distinction which I did notContinue reading “‘Prohibited’ and ‘Acceptable’ Weapons and Targets in War”

The 9/11 Attacks: A Terrifying Spectacle, Viewed from Afar

On September 11th, 2001, I was in Sydney, Australia, working as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of New South Wales. I spent most of the day in my office, composing a long email to my girlfriend back in New York City, my former home for seven years, suggesting we break up. Our long-distance relationshipContinue reading “The 9/11 Attacks: A Terrifying Spectacle, Viewed from Afar”

On First and Second Languages – III

In the first post of this series, I described my relationship with English and Hindi/Urdu/Hindustani; in the second, that with German. The story in today’s post–that of Spanish in my life–is similar to the German tale: partial fluency, a long-standing, constantly procastinated commitment to formal study. The distinctive contrast lies in the nature of theContinue reading “On First and Second Languages – III”