Beyond the white sands of the Maldives, women live in constant fear: Come on, burst my bubble. I just want to take a plane for many hours, soak up some sun, and swim in the nice waters. And now you want me to have to consider that it is perhaps the most woke destination?

The both-sideism of the once-respected New York Times is disgusting and dangerous and in a better world people would simply stop reading the rag. Yikes: As New York Times attacks Dr. Fauci with baseless ‘lab leak’ claims, science points to new suspect.

Speaking about social media:

Its ills flow from that: social media’s monetization through the attention economy means data mining and the nurturing of users’ insecurities; advertising fuels consumerism; and platforms are incentivized to favour the spreading of far right messages – after all, outrage is seductive.

It is from What if…: social media were not for profit?. I am afraid that I am jaded enough to not see any viable solution, short-term or long-term. Doom and misery, doom and misery. Anything nice and free and hopeful in this world will be monetized and monopolized and made utterly useless. Until the world as such changes. One way or the other.

Bonjour cowboy! America through the eyes of a Frenchman

“The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.”

— John Updike

Why we can stop worrying and love the particle accelerator:

Despite having nothing less than a particle accelerator beam pass through his brain, Bugorski’s intellect remained intact, and he successfully completed his doctorate after the accident. Bugorski survived his accident. And as frightening and awesome as the inside of a particle accelerator might be, humanity has thus far survived the nuclear age.

Elena Ferrante’s Naples – a photo essay

Self-Portrait, 1554— Sofonisba Anguissola

‘Pong is timeless’

Not good:

“Highly visible wealth disparity, declining trust in democratic institutions, a perceived sense of victimhood, intense partisan estrangement based on identity, rapid demographic change, flourishing conspiracy theories, violent and dehumanizing rhetoric against the ‘other,’ a sharply divided electorate, and a belief among those who flirt with violence that they can get away with it. All of those conditions were present at the turn of the last century. All of them are present today.” During such eras, LaFrance writes, “societies tend to ignore the obvious warning signs of endemic political violence until the situation is beyond containment, and violence takes on a life of its own.”

Adrienne LaFrance

Between the streets: shades of New York – in pictures

It’s hard not to read John H. White’s DOCUMERICA series as a love letter to Black Chicago. Whether capturing protesters or checkers players, concerts or chores, White’s work feels animated by a wonder and curiosity for the great breadth of stories and characters he encountered while exploring his adopted home city — “life”, as he put it in the captions to several of his images, “in all its seasons”.

John H. White’s Photographs of Black Chicago for DOCUMERICA

‘“You have one identity,” Mark Zuckerberg famously said. “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly.” He added that “having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”’

— from Jenny Odell’s ‘How to do nothing’

And right there we know that something is quite off with the Zuckerberg.

Although not a digital native, and old enough to not-too-fondly remember writing a thesis full of tables and graphs on a typewriter (plenty of physical cut-and-paste), yes: the word processor is a wondrous gift (and the spreadsheet, too, making things possible that were just not so before). If nothing else, we have that.

The word processor is God’s gift, or at least science’s gift, to the tinkerers and the refiners and the neatness freaks. For me it was obviously the perfect new toy. I began playing on page 1 — editing, cutting and revising — and have been on a rewriting high ever since. The burden of the years has been lifted.

— William Zinsser, Writing With a Word Processor

I am surely not part of generation podcast. Too old, too cranky — but mostly because I am a reader. And throw audiobooks in there. Now, I acknowledge that for some, say people who have problems reading, listening is a good alternative. But some arguments for podcasts are that you can do it while you do something else, for example, commuting. Which means that you are not paying attention to one thing or the other: you become a traffic hazard or you don’t really hear the words. And you are not there, not in the moment. Reading is a solitary experience, you can take a break and wonder, you can go back and read a paragraph or a page again, you can skip a boring paragraph. With a podcast you are at the mercy of the narrator, the speed, the intonations, the always-moving-forward. There is someone else there with you, which may be what you want, but it is, at least, a very different experience from reading.

Podcasts are convenient: and not only for the consumer but also for the producer. Writing is hard and involves much agony and revision. Podcasts are probably less so, although I do realize there is a script somewhere. But you can gloss over so much when reading it out loud.

“In one sense wabi-sabi is a training whereby the student of wabi-sabi learns to find the most basic, natural objects interesting, fascinating and beautiful. Fading autumn leaves would be an example. Wabi-sabi can change the student’s perception of the world to the extent that a chip or crack in a vase makes it more interesting and gives the object greater meditative value. Similarly materials that age such as bare wood, paper and fabric become more interesting as they exhibit changes that can be observed over time.”

La puerta escondida no está escondida
La puerta al invisible no está invisibile
The door to the invisible is visible
The hidden door is not hidden
I continually walk through it not seeing it
And I am what I am
And will be what I will be
Sobre las playas perdidas del Sur .

— Ferlinghetti

Here is how platforms die: first, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.

Pluralistic: Tiktok’s enshittification

Flor Garduño

Owens Salvage in the Panhandle Pays Homage to the Heyday of the Hot Rod

It all sounds so eerily familiar

He puts the blame for Rackspace’s deepening financial struggles — it’s posted a steady string of quarterly losses, and the value of its stock has fallen 80 percent in the past year — on its replacement of tech-oriented leadership with board members and managers “who don’t have any connection with the product.” He said there’s “no culture” at the company after it laid off hundreds of local staffers while it expanded globally. And he scoffed at the idea of being a “Racker,” saying he never adopted the term the company uses for its employees and identity.

Rackspace ‘on trajectory of death,’ founder Richard Yoo says

When renowned American journalist Dan Rather presented a US news segment on the topic in 1979, he said: “Wellness – there’s a word you don’t hear every day.” How times change. Now, wellness is everywhere – an all-consuming concept that has transformed every brand and life experience it has touched, from food and travel to exercise and sex. It’s a powerful and hugely profitable global industry, valued at $4.4 trillion in 2020. That’s more than three times larger than the worldwide pharmaceutical industry. So, if wellness is now just an everyday word, surely we must ask: is everyone feeling good? Are we all well? Unfortunately, as with many individual wellness fads and trends, the evidence isn’t looking good.

A clean break: The wellness industry isn’t well, and people are finally waking up to it

What emerges is a Left that operates without either a deep and radical critique of the status quo or a compelling alternative to the existing order of things. But perhaps even more troubling, it is a Left that has become more attached to its impossibility than to its potential fruitfulness, a Left that is most at home dwelling not in hopefulness but in its own marginality and failure, a Left that is thus caught in a structure of melancholic attachment to a certain strain of its own dead past, whose spirit is ghostly, whose structure of desire is backward looking and punishing.

— Wendy Brown, “Resisting Left Melancholia”

FTSE 100 CEOs’ earnings for 2023 will surpass the median UK worker’s full time annual salary today, just prior to 14:00 on Thursday 5 January, according to HPC calculations.

High Pay Hour 2023

The Lacemaker

Always thought the girl with the earring was Vermeer’s best — but damn: it is a tough contest.


Michaelina Wautier, a forgotten paintress.

“Seeing is not enough; you have to feel what you photograph. “ Andre Kertesz (supposedly) said so, and in that short sentence, he totally nailed what is wrong with 99% of the ‘photography’ you see on the internet. 65 megapixels files from a very expensive camera? Check. Rented a nubile model to pose and have a lighting assistant and a make-up person? Check. Travelling to a remote waterfall on Sumba, having locals carry your expensive equipment over the mountains? Check.

And yet, and yet …

Dead as a dodo

A Bestiary of Loss

Post-modernists may be said to have developed a paradigm that clashes sharply with the one in this book. I have argued that modern life and art and thought have the capacity for perpetual self-critique and self-renewal. Post-modernists maintain that the horizon of modernity is closed, its energies exhausted—in effect, that modernity is passé. Post-modernist social thought pours scorn on all the collective hopes for moral and social progress, for personal freedom and public happiness, that were bequeathed to us by the modernists of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. These hopes, post moderns say, have been shown to be bankrupt, at best vain and futile fantasies.

— Marshall Bermann, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air

Dora Marr

Windows of the mind: early Dora Maar images

Yale professor and historian Timothy Snyder has sounded alarm bells about autocracy and fascism for several years now, in both his scholarly and popular books about Russian and German history. Whether you’ve followed his warnings or just started paying attention, it’s not too late to get caught up on the lessons he brings from his rigorous studies of 20th century totalitarianism. To make his relevant points more accessible, Snyder has distilled them over the years, aiming at the widest popular audience.

Historian Timothy Snyder Presents 20 Lessons for Defending Democracy Against Tyranny in a New Video Series

Gilbert and George AI

Incoherent, creepy and gorgeous: we asked six leading artists to make work using AI – and here are the results

A view at the paradox that is America:

But plenty of other things caught me unprepared: On the way to my hotel, I overhear a couple outside Shake Shack explain that they are on a diet and so want no sauce on their burgers. A white supremacist working at a laundromat owned by an old Asian lady lectures me on European politics and warns me to “watch out for the Blacks” in a jarringly friendly tone. On my way out of town, the city’s Greyhound station, filled with the strong scent of urine, has all the charm of a cancer diagnosis.


No other country in the world kills as many children with guns. As my colleague Michaela Haas reported, regulation of guns is shown to clearly work and reduce deaths. The problem, however, goes beyond fact and into the murky, complicated realm of politics. A few days before, that complexity was made abundantly clear to me when, in the street, I met a retired Native American, Trump-supporting cop, who showed me around his ranch and taught me how to shoot a pistol on his firing range. Friendly and eccentric as this man was – he wore a kilt due to his partly Scottish origins and gifted me a Luke Skywalker figurine – he insisted that comprehensive, tighter gun control was not necessary. We spoke for a couple of hours, but I got the impression that a month wouldn’t have been enough.


My final call was to be New York City, a place that relies historically and culturally so much on its immigrant communities. But it’s a place that is becoming increasingly unaffordable for those who made it what it is: the $20 bagels; the million-dollar Manhattan apartments; the Brooklyn hipster coffee shops; the McDonalds that are taking over Harlem. Instead, I found the people of New York City to be its redeeming feature, especially in Queens, the most diverse county in the nation. The witty Jewish bookstore owner in Borough Park; the mad Greek priest sitting by a souvlaki stand in Astoria; the seventy something gospel singers at the Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem; the Puerto Rican bar owner Toñita in Brooklyn; and the freewheeling jazz musicians at a park in The Bronx’s Pelham Bay. The people of the United States — for all its flaws, inadequacies and dysfunctions — are what make it great.

Earthships, Mormons, Doomsdayers and Weed

Many of his observations are concise and similar to mine (and to those of many other European visitors). I wonder, though: the fact that on a personal level so many Americans are friendly and open and helpful, while still holding the most bizarre political ideas: is that what makes us all fall for the whole Midwestern diner full of salt-of-the-Earth real Americans that all journos seem to cherish? But the uniquely American experience is rather that of Queens, New York, I would think.

A pastrami sandwich

Jewish Delis in NYC

We went on a trip to Rome. I wrote some notes about it and even took a few snapshots.

 Artemisia Gentileschi

An Introduction to the Painting of Artemisia Gentileschi

Lighthouse report

Jason Stanley: How Fascism Works:

Whereas cities, to the fascist imagination, are the source of corrupting culture, often produced by Jews and immigrants, the countryside is pure. The “Official Party Statement on Its Attitude toward the Farmers and Agriculture” was published in the National Socialist Völkischer Beobachter in 1930, with Hitler’s signature (though its actual authorship is unclear). It contains a concise statement of the Nazi ideology that the true values of the nation were to be found in the rural population, that National Socialists “see in the farmers the main bearers of a healthy folkish heredity, the fountain of youth of the people, and the backbone of military power.” In fascist politics, the family-farm is the cornerstone of the nation’s values, and family farm communities provide the backbone of its military.

Resources that flow to cities must be directed to the rural communities instead, to preserve this vital center of the nation’s values. And the rural communities, as the source of the pure blood of the nation, cannot be polluted by outside blood via immigration. It was official Nazi policy that “by bettering the lot of the domestic agricultural laborer and by preventing flight from the land, the importation of foreign agricultural labor becomes unnecessary and will therefore be forbidden.”

Three chimneys in the harbor

Black and white

Harry Smith’s Musical Catalogue of Human Experience:

Like many serious collectors of arcane but precious objects, Smith could be irascible, mean, and single-minded to the point of psychopathy. There are stories of his thieving, particularly when he believed that an item would be better off in his care. He never married, drank to unconsciousness, went absolutely nuts if anyone talked while he was playing a record, and, according to his friend Allen Ginsberg, kept “several years’ deposits of his semen” in the back of his freezer for “alchemical purposes.”

Parked bicycles.

Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory:

The term “Cultural Marxism” refers to a far-right antisemitic conspiracy theory which claims that Western Marxism is the basis of continuing academic and intellectual efforts to subvert Western culture. The conspiracy theory misrepresents the Frankfurt School as being responsible for modern progressive movements, identity politics, and political correctness, claiming there is an ongoing and intentional subversion of Western society via a planned culture war that undermines the Christian values of traditionalist conservatism and seeks to replace them with the culturally liberal values of the 1960s.

But I am sure you knew that, right? An anti-Semitic dog whistle is what it is.

The Jewish Bride

Van Gogh said, after seeing Rembrandt’s “Jewish Bride”: “I would give ten years of my life to sit in front of this painting for another fortnight, with nothing but a dry crust of bread to eat.”

We thought we were done with these things but we were wrong.
We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom.
We thought the long train would run to the end of Time.
We thought the light would increase.
Now the long train stands derailed and the bandits loot it.
Now the boar and the asp have power in our time.
Now the night rolls back on the West and the night is solid.
Our fathers and ourselves sowed dragon’s teeth.
Our children know and suffer the armed men.

Litany for Dictatorships by Stephen Vincent Benet

Monet's haystacks.

Haystacks, by Claude Monet

‘You don’t hate Mondays: you hate your job’

Your boss can monitor your activities without special software:

Hundreds of thousands of people adopted new ways of working during the pandemic, spending several days or all of the workweek at home. Gallup estimates that in June — the latest data that’s available — about 34 million people worked in hybrid environments, a mix of office and home. And about 36.5 million people in the United States worked remotely at least five days a week as of early August, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.

As a result, employers have been seeking new ways to manage and ensure productivity, with a growing number of them turning to surveillance software. At the beginning of 2022, global demand for employee monitoring software increased 65 percent from 2019, according to internet security and digital rights firm Top10VPN.

It is almost like our bosses do not really trust us, eh?

You could do much, much worse right now than listen to Lambchop’s ‘Every Child Begins the World Again’ from ‘The Bible’. Truly.

© Henning Bertram 2024