“The True Story of Kudzu, The Vine That Never Truly Ate the South”: Smithsonian Magazine

ruminates: ...The hype didn’t come out of nowhere. Kudzu has appeared larger than life because it’s most aggressive when planted along road cuts and railroad embankments—habitats that became front and center in the age of the automobile. As trees grew in the cleared lands near roadsides, kudzu rose with them. It appeared not to stop because there were no grazers to eat it back. But, in fact, it rarely penetrates deeply into a forest; it climbs well only in sunny areas on the forest edge and suff … [Read more...]

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“Jacob Lawrence’s Existential Sociology”: I’m at AmCon

reviewin': ...It’s easy to read artists—and maybe especially black artists—as mere reporters. Or, worse, sociologists. And Jacob Lawrence’s work does indeed have many reportorial or sociological characteristics: He’s racially conscious (and self-conscious about his role as a voice of his race), he’s influenced by folk art, he’s panoramic in his attempt to depict many layers of society. He has what The Wire would call “the Dickensian element.” These are all artistic choices he made that add to th … [Read more...]

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“The Wisdom of the Beguines”: Commonweal Book Review on Medieval Laywomen Mystics

with tons of fascinating stuff: In the twelfth century, single women began moving in large numbers from farms to cities of the Low Countries to work in the textile industry. Many of these women formed communal living arrangements that offered safe, affordable accommodation, and a life of service to their neighbors. According to Laura Swan’s recent book, The Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women’s Movement, the beguines, who flourished for several hundred years, were one … [Read more...]

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The Retro-Future Is Ours, Captain!: I Rewatch “Star Trek: The Original Series”

We got a VCR fairly early, and my sister taped all the reruns of the original and at that time only Star Trek, until we had a whole cabinet full of Kirk. I rewatched these tapes constantly. Kirk and Uhura were between the two of them my first crushes. (Also that one kid Esteban from The Mysterious Cities of Gold.) This summer my Netflix queue, which circles the earth like the Midgard Serpent, finally wound its way to the first season of ST:TOS, so I've been revisiting my old love. Does it hold … [Read more...]

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A Practical Agenda on Police Violence: Radley Balko

writes: ...As a whole, these proposals are well-argued, practical and smart. For the most part, they’re supported by empirical data and real-world experience. The Campaign Zero leadership has clearly given these proposals a lot of thought.That said, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they’re portrayed as radical and reactionary, especially by police organizations. This discussion has been so lopsided over the years that any reform, no matter how sensible, is bound to be met with intense oppos … [Read more...]

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“Summer of ’90: ‘The Witches’”: Slant Magazine

on the last great children's nightmare factory of the 1980s: Children's movies are traditionally designed to comfort. There's an unspoken contract between parent and filmmaker: "For the next 90 minutes, your child will be entertained, but not threatened. No need to worry about your little darlings waking up at three in the morning, bawling in terror. This movie is guaranteed not to trouble anyone's mind. Most people are inherently good. The bad guys don't win."Children's movies, for the … [Read more...]

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“The Supreme Court’s Massive Blind Spot”: The Stories It Knows About Criminal Justice

Radley Balko explains, in a fascinating & depressing piece: ...Each term, the Supreme Court decides a dozen or so cases in which the justices attempt to balance the public’s interest in keeping order (which manifests in the powers we give to police and prosecutors) with our constitutional rights. Yet for the vast majority of Supreme Court justices now and in recent history, you could quite literally say that the criminal justice system is merely academic. Some justices may have seen a cri … [Read more...]

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