Saturday, September 08, 2018

links for the weekend

animal preservation can turn out to be about more than just habitat preservation, cumulative knowledge is a variable, according to an article in The Atlantic about ungulate migratory patterns

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/09/to-save-animals-we-need-to-save-their-knowledge-too/569503/

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Ecologists have long speculated that ungulates—hooved animals like deer, bison, and sheep—also learn to migrate, since many species seem to adopt the movement patterns of their mothers and peers. By studying the translocated bighorns, using data gleaned from their collars, Kauffman’s team has finally confirmed this longstanding assumption.

To an extent, ungulates can find emerging greenery through local smells and sights. “But they also possess excellent spatial memory,” says Jesmer. “They can remember when a path greened up and time their movements to go to that area the next spring.” Their mental maps are the foundations of migrations. They’re the difference between an animal that’s just going after nearby shoots, and one that’s moving long distances across the terrain in anticipation of greenery that it knows will arrive.

That knowledge takes time to accrue, which the team showed by studying both the bighorns and five groups of translocated moose. The more time these animals spent in a new place, the better their surfing ability was, and the more likely they were to migrate. Jesmer thinks this process likely occurs over generations: Individuals learn to move through the world by following their mothers, and then augment that inherited know-how with their own experiences. “Each generation, you get this incremental increase in knowledge,” Jesmer says. For sheep, he says, learning how to effectively exploit their environment takes around 50 to 60 years. Moose need closer to a century.

That knowledge allows the animals to find plants early, when they’re young, tender, and more easily digested. And by eating high-quality plants, they can more easily pack on the fat and protein that gets them through harsh winters. “When they lose that knowledge, their populations will suffer,” says Jesmer.

Wildlife conservation isn’t just about raising the numbers on a population count. It’s also an act of cultural preservation. When rangers stop poachers from killing an elephant matriarch, they’re also saving her memories. When conservationists preserve routes over which bighorn sheep can travel, they’re keeping the animals’ traditional knowledge alive for future generations.
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over at The New Republic Josephine Livingstone sounded off on The New Yorker and Steve Bannon flare up.

The New Yorker announced this Labor Day that Steve Bannon—the architect of Donald Trump’s ethno-nationalist campaign—would appear as a headline guest at its October festival, to be interviewed by editor David Remnick. Later that day, Remnick rescinded Bannon’s invitation in a memo circulated to staff. Between these announcements a streak of rage burned across Twitter, resulting in the withdrawal of several celebrity guests from the festival.
All this happened in a single day, on the internet, and then it was done. Was this just a flurry of nonsense on a sleepy summer’s holiday, or was this actual lightning hitting the ground? Twitter is a repository for the real opinions of real people, but it is also a virtual space that exists in parallel to reality traditionally conceived. It’s governed by its own strange weather. But in this case the online storm pointed to factors that exist outside the online discourse, including a growing distaste for the media-political bubble in which people like Remnick and Bannon live.
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But an interview does not equal endorsement, he insisted. Bannon has historical significance, since he helped Trump get elected: The New Yorker is “hardly pulling him out of obscurity,” Remnick noted. He compared his proposed interview to Dick Cavett interviewing Lester Maddox and George Wallace, and Oriana Fallaci meeting with Henry Kissinger and Ayatollah Khomeini. Still, he acknowledged that “many of our readers, including some colleagues, have said that the Festival is different, a different kind of forum.” He eventually concluded that a written profile would be a more appropriate treatment for this important, though awful, man.
For his part, Bannon has explained that he accepted the invitation because he “would be facing one of the most fearless journalists of his generation.” He later called Remnick “gutless” for cowing to the “howling online mob.”
However, this framing of the Festival obscures certain stakes at play. First up, the money. Events are a great way for magazines to make money, especially in an era of declining ad sales. Lots of publications hold charity-style benefit dinners and forums where guests bat around “ideas.” An evening with Jack Antonoff at the New Yorker Festival, including a live concert and interview, will set you back $177. A Haruki Murakami event with fiction editor Deborah Treisman costs the same. In a 2014 article on the Festival at the business siteBizBash, Rhonda Sherman, the magazine’s director of editorial promotion, said, “The New Yorker simply would not put on the New Yorker Festival if it were not profitable.”
Fundraising is a necessary part of the magazine publishing machine, and nobody could blame The New Yorker for wanting to generate cash. But it also means that the invitation to Bannon didn’t come from a place of editorial purity—from a desire simply to interrogate him. This is not to say that Remnick solicited Bannon with the cynical intention of extracting cash from curious punters. But it does mean that the reverberations of Bannon’s appearance would have been felt in the magazine’s coffers.
The second factor obscured by the cloud of indignation concerns cultural, rather than literal, capital. David Remnick and Steve Bannon are captains of two different elites. Remnick heads The New Yorker, which nestles atop the American pyramid of intellectual prestige. Bannon helped to turn Donald Trump—denizen of reality television, the dark mirror to journalistic high-mindedness—into the most powerful man in the world. They are like prefects of different boarding school houses. Each derives part of his power by opposing the other.
Last year, Digiday reported that The New Yorker’s opposition to Trump led to a boom in subscriptions. Subscribing to the magazine, which often features caricatures of Trump on its cover, represents to some readers an act of resistance. The New Yorker’s unabashed intellectualism, commitment to deep inquiry, and skepticism of conservative politics is the kind of bandwagon decent liberals want to get on.
For his part, Bannon referred to the media as “the opposition party” at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference. The press are, Bannon said, “corporatist globalist media that are adamantly opposed to a economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has.” In the months since that CPAC appearance, Trump has sculpted his hatred for the media into an ideological issue that pits his supporters against all those who speak with journalistic authority. Bannon lies at the origin of this bit of propaganda.
The proposed meeting between Remnick and Bannon thus represented much more than the political conundrum about “platforming” odious people. It would have seen two public figures at the pinnacle of their respective clans, coming together to create a spectacle that would generate money for Remnick’s magazine and a mixture of prestige and notoriety for Bannon. The merit of the event’s content (whatever it would have been—we’ll never know) need barely come into it. The interview was compromised from the start.
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A potentially quotidian observation that people who make their livings in the press pulling an interview that amounts to a ... publicity stunt don't come across as the most convincing sorts when appealing to principle?  Not that the point can't or shouldn't be made, of course.  

Scott Timberg has been writing about the demise of the alternative/weekly press since the news that The Village Voice was shutting down came up.

The alt weekly papers have been closing steadily over the last ten years, it seems, although up here in Puget Sound The Stranger (for worse and better) is still going.  The alternative press doesn't always seem like a very accurate or plausible term for whatever that branch of the press is supposed to be.  I say that with The Stranger in particular in mind beause over the last twenty years it began to seem that men like Dan Savage and Mark Driscoll have vastly more in common with each other than they may have things they think separate them.  Yes, one is ostensibly more blue state and the other is more ostensibly red state but as their respective histories of over the top punditry in Puget Sound suggested to me guys who can't resist telling people how to get off and why they should can show up across the entire political or religious/areligious spectrum.  
And as I was gloomily musing back in 2016 an alternative press that was as shocked by the Trump victory as the mainstream press may have been equally a failure at doing its job.  The future of journalistic practice may be no safer in what's left of the alternative press than in the mainstream press.  There was a review of Timberg's book at Arts Fuse a few years back, the author pointed out that Timberg came from a lien of writers and journalists and teachers and that there's an irony to his not realizing the ways in which the shifts in economics and policy that gutted the midwestern industrial job base would have a trickle down on effect on arts coverage.  
I could translate it a different way, middle-aged guys who remember the 1990s as being great were young enough to not need medical coverage or stale work and so didn't have to think about how the dot com era bubble was not all that great for people looking to get into more traditional work.  Journalism jobs were already drying up and withering away in that period and if Timberg had already landed his sweet gigs at regional papers it wouldn't have necessarily felt like things were declining back then, now he likely has a clearer sense of the downward spiral.
Yet ... as I guess I have been establishign at length at this blog, you can do journalistic blogging as the need arises.  You can do a lot of writing at a blog about the arts.  The kicker, however, is I do all this on my own time and don't make money at it ... nor am I necessarily saying I want to make money off this blog.  I've refused to monetize this blog for a variety of reasons.  
Someone once told me that the downside for blogs and bloggers is that the institutional press basically only takes itself seriously.  The election of Trump could have caused an existential crisis for the credibility of the institutional press that alternately either didn't see that victory coming or leveraged it for consumer cultivation work (i.e. The New Yorker seeing a subscription boom)
But the Frankfurt school didn't predict Trump would win. That's a fabrication of the sort that shows up in "here's my book report on an old book" style of journalism.  I've seen it enough in evangelical and conservative Protestant writing to have some idea what it looks like in a magazine like The New  Yorker.  By all means read Adorno, though, if you can navigate his style.  
Over at The Baffler there's a perhaps predictably cynical take on the Kaepernick ad with Nike.
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The ad itself is a fascinating piece of communication whose implications speak volumes. It’s spare—a black and white photograph of Kaepernick’s face emblazoned with the copy “Believe in something. Even it means sacrificing everything.” Kaepernick’s mere image alongside what is otherwise fairly boilerplate Nike-speak in the “Just Do It” vein is catnip to his supporters and an affront to conservatives. There is, at present, no reason for any company to endorse him as an athlete, which means that Nike (which has had him under contract all along) is forking over a hefty payday, a shoe, and potentially a line of apparel to someone on the basis of his activism. In the most simplistic branding terms, this decision means that social justice work is good, and its critics are therefore bad. Nike has trained the spotlight on Kaepernick when it could’ve easily remained silent.

But it’s just as instructive to look at what the ad didn’t say. It cosigns the Nike brand to Kaepernick’s determination and integrity, not the substance of his “something”—which, by his own admission, evolved over time as he gained a more sophisticated understanding of politics and activism. His message, which is perhaps best described as an inchoate structural critique of racist violence, is wholly absent; we have to settle for generic motivational copy that could easily apply to sports, or any other demanding endeavor off the field. It is impossible to agree or disagree with the ad. Nike pointedly does not decry white supremacy, police violence, the carceral state, or environmental racism—all themes Kaepernick has touched on via his public statements and charitable work. Much like the “Equality” campaign from last year or the much-praised utterances of LeBron James, its premier athlete, Nike here demonstrated clear limits to just how far it is willing to go.
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Viewed in the context of the charged psychic minefield of brand symbolism, the embrace of the Kaepernick ad as an unconditional triumph is a gesture of self-preservation. The current state of debate surrounding putative loyalty to the national anthem and the NFL—both patriotic brands cultivating a similarly charged sort of signification among a very different consumer demographic—requires us to interpret the Nike-branded message as a token of  progress because otherwise we would have to admit how cut off we are from any real version of dissent or meaningful opposition. Our own capacity to trust Nike belies an underlying sickness that we would rather not address. That we are okay with a politics mediated by brands puts the onus on us—which is to say, where it should ultimately belong. Unless Nike stuns everyone by expanding its partnership with Kaepernick to the point of adopting his worldview to influence corporate practices, we should view these efforts neutrally. Having Kaepernick around is good for the discourse; but our own ready inclination to pat Nike on the back for the culture-war troubles it’s now fending off largely by design points to some disquieting truths about ourselves.
Being pro-Kaepernick doesn’t require you be anti-capitalism. Nor does seeing value in the ad make you a sinister sell-out. Ideally, though, the ad’s appearance can serve as a teachable moment, burnishing Nike’s and Kaepernick’s respective brands while highlighting the consumer psychology at work in establishing and cultivating our loyalty to consumer brands: their agendas, their putative virtues, or their capacity for political action. Corporations wield real power. But brands are a figment that we feed every day—and if we ever we plan to reckon with them, we must also truly reckon with ourselves. 

Had that been an article from what is colloquially known as the alt right or a conservative publication the commentary might have opened with "the virtue signalling is strong with this one".  That might even be true ... although as that goes virtue signalling is so strong with those who call out virtue signalling that it's not like there  are any "good guys" on that front.  Jesus taught against doing good deeds to gain the adulation of people and people have been finding loopholes in that instruction ever since Jesus taught it.  

But ... it is important to consider your brand loyalties and what the brands actually "say" and what our loyalty to a brand says about you.  As a former Mars Hill member who decided to leave one of the key realizations I had about what I believed (and I would say I'm in many respects a stick in the mud evangelical moderately conservative sort) is that there was basically nothing about what I believed that had to be realized by way of membership at Mars Hill.  To put it in market terms, I began to feel that Mars Hill had stopped being about the product and had become altogether more about the branding, and that what had begun as a "we" of a Christian community exploring what city life could be like it had morphed into Mark Driscoll's "my story" as a synecdoche for an entire community.  

Over at ArtsFuse, saw a piece about a book on a connection between what's known as neoliberalism and a neoclassical tendency in jazz.




It's probably going to be stuck on my "to get to ... maybe" list.  I still have a book by Ephraim Radner I haven't even started yet and there's no such thing as a "fast" Adorno reading program.  I did finish reading a certain book by Joseph Campbell, though, and it was one of the lamer books I've read through but I'm waiting to write about that at some other time. 

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