Squid Video, Vaticanomics, Francis vs the Doctors, African Fiction: Four Friday Things

Squid Video, Vaticanomics, Francis vs the Doctors, African Fiction: Four Friday Things March 28, 2014

The things I’ve been reading. This week’s theme is “Things I Know Little About.”

Inebriate Me: “The Real Problem with Vaticanomics.”

Our critique of Vaticanomics must start with its being unimaginative and—I will even say—boring.

Say about it what you will, but when Jesus instructed the rich young man to give all his money to the poor and talked about camels and needles, it wasn’t boring.

I am being provocative, but here’s why it actually matters.

The first one is that economics is a science where, by its very nature, many answers are blurred and even impossible to know with certainty. In this context, any consensus that hardens might be wrong. In this context, therefore, the Church has two vital roles to play : to enrich economics with its profound and important social science ; and to have a prophetic voice that can act as a wake-up call to economic faculty lounges and policy bureaus. Both those things call for the opposite of the kind milquetoast, tepid language produced by the Curia.


“The Kraken Is Real: Scientists Film First Footage of a Giant Squid.” It looks sort of battered and metallic, like a banged-up car.

“Halifax’s Free-Money Hero Lands in Psychiatric Ward After Handing Out Money to Strangers.”

All last week, Halifax was roiled by sightings of a “mystery man” roaming the city and handing out money to strangers.

The sums were large: $100, $50 bills and an assortment of silver coins. The recipients were picked seemingly at random: workers taking a smoke break, passengers on a bus or even a couple sitting on their porch.

Reportedly dressed in patched pants and a wool jacket, the man would tell people he lived in the woods. Sometimes he would point skywards and tell them to thank God, other times he would hint he was the vanguard of a movement to “take back the wealth.”

“I think he did a good job for mankind,” said a clerk at Citadel Coins, one of the Halifax coin shops where the man had come to stock up.

On Monday, Haligonians finally learned the identity of their enigmatic benefactor: Richard Wright, a P.E.I. man who had barely returned home to Charlottetown before he was apprehended by local mental-health authorities.

“They think he is sick and has mental issues … but I know he does not,” wrote Mr. Wright’s teenaged daughter, Chelsey, in a Sunday night Facebook post. …

The day after the post, on Thursday around 1 p.m., Mr. Wright had just finished the four-hour drive from Halifax when RCMP officers stopped his car on a Charlottetown street to perform a “wellness check.”

“It was somebody who called the [Queens District] detachment and asked for a wellness check on him,” said Sgt. Leanne Butler, spokeswoman for the P.E.I. RCMP. “Members were on their way to his house when they recognized his vehicle.”

He was then taken to hospital for “further health assessment,” she said.

more; and, you know, more.

“Up from Colonialism”: Helen Rittelmeyer blames Chinua Achebe for one-note Anglophone African fiction, & suggests several Francophone African writers as part of a livelier tradition. All I know about Achebe is that I was cordially bored by Things Fall Apart both times it was assigned to me, so I can’t assess Rittelmeyer’s argument; but if nothing else, she’ll give the less-steeped reader several intriguing titles to add to the bookshelf. Plus, I mean,

As Soyinka grew in stature as a playwright and essayist, he proved to be a steadfast enemy of all attempts to impose limits on African writing, especially those limits that were politically motivated. For a long time he resisted being published under the AWS imprint at all, on the grounds that he wanted to be evaluated as a writer, not an African writer. Referring to the series’ signature orange covers, he called it the “orange ghetto.” He also waged a lively and protracted battle in print with representatives of the négritude movement, which held that African literature should concern itself primarily with exploring the essence of blackness and upholding the superiority of its unique form of wisdom. Soyinka wrote offnégritude as a “philosophical straitjacket,” cuttingly remarking in one famous essay: “A tiger does not proclaim its tigritude. It pounces.”

Such pointed dissents from multiculturalist orthodoxy may explain the strange fact that although Soyinka is, by most accounts, a better and more interesting writer than Achebe, he is not nearly so well known. His marvelous plays are rarely assigned in Western classrooms. In commercial terms, Soyinka has never been a huge success, whereas sales of Achebe’s books accounted for as much as a third of the revenue coming in from the African Writers Series even in the 1980s, decades after they had first been published. When Soyinka won the Nobel Prize in 1986, he was cornered at a reception by one particularly effusive admirer who proceeded to praise his work in the most gushing terms. When Soyinka asked, “What have you read by me?” the admirer answered, “Things Fall Apart.”


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