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Field Notes

Prelude to a Hot American Summer

In the unfolding of social antagonism which drives human history there are spectacular moments when a hitherto-invisible threshold is crossed and great masses who have long appeared to suffer in silence thrust themselves onto center stage to claim their place as breakers of chains and makers of history. The 2010 self-immolation of Tunisian street vendor Tarek el-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi was one such event. The 2016 plan to construct the Dakota Access Pipeline across sacred indigenous land and water was another.

For the State, the Best Defense is Sometimes a Deadly Offense

One of the French public radio stations recently rebroadcast a 1987 interview with James Baldwin, in which he recalled that living in France during the Algerian War led him to discover that racism wasn’t peculiar to North American society. By an irony of history, these words still—33 years later—fit a moment when the US uprising against police violence and the racist nature of society have set off protests in France against the same things. Such mobilizations have recurred in French society for years.

“My son's dreams were cut short”: protests against police brutality go viral in Mexico, the US, and beyond

As soon as COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, the rumors started: it had been prophesied all along! Psychic Sylvia Browne had predicted it in her 2008 book End of Days, writing: “In around 2020 a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe…” Brazilian author Melissa Tobias described it in her novel A realidade de Madhu: a “global pandemic that would kill more than three billion earthdwellers.” Some even attributed prophetic powers to the end credits scene of the 2001 film Planet of the Apes, depicting how a new disease could quickly spread across the globe through air travel.

Crowned Plague

In spring the winter weight of snow trickles off the stone steps of the basilica in small, shimmering rivulets, a microcosm of the many streams glittering through the foothills of the unyielding Dolomites, or maybe more a mirror of the intricate alpine network of alte vie and vie ferrate, narrow, high walking and climbing paths hewn into the mountains during the first world war when other routes were made impassable by mines.

In Conversation

Elise Armani with Piotr Szyhalski

Piotr Szyhalski is a Polish-born, US-based artist. Trained in Poland as a poster designer, Szyhalski has been living in Minneapolis since 1994, where he teaches at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. In 1998, Szyhalski began Labor Camp, an ongoing artistic framework that transcends medium and encapsulates his layered practice of performance, musical scores, printed ephemera, pedagogy, and media art.

Journey to a “People's War”

Some years ago, I stopped in Wuhan on my way to somewhere else. The city looked unremarkable to me, another heavy, Chinese metropolis split in two by a dying river. I remember the owner of my hostel stopping by to take my payment and photocopy my passport. Afterwards, he left for dinner, and I did the same, walking down to the Yangtze to sit on its grassy banks.

American Factory

American Factory, directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert in 2019, begins with scenes of hope. In 2008, General Motors shut its factory in Moraine, Ohio, just south of Dayton. Nearly 2,500 auto-workers lost their jobs. Counting workers in ancillary local industries, the jobless toll rose to 10,000. When Fuyao, a Chinese auto glass maker, announced in 2014 that it would take over the old GM plant and employ 800, the reaction was relief.

Beyond the Green New Deal

Is it weird that it would be the pen of a plant breeder who specializes in perennial sorghum, Stan Cox of The Land Institute, that would give us the most concise, careful, and politically serious action program for responding to the climate crisis so far published?


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2020

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