MyAppleMenu Reader

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Who Killed The Curry House?, by Bee Wilson, The Guardian

Now, however, the curry house’s once unassailable place in British life looks precarious. Thousands of Indian restaurants are critically short of both staff to cook the food and customers to eat it. Across the industry, two or three curry houses are closing down a week.

This is a crisis with many causes, the effects of which extend far beyond curry. Since the Brexit vote and the subsequent collapse of the pound, independent food outlets of all kinds have been hurt by rises in rents, rates and food prices. Meanwhile, in families that run curry houses younger generations have moved away from catering to more lucrative jobs in medicine or tech. So long as there was a ready supply of new onion choppers from Asia, the exodus of upwardly mobile offspring did not affect curry houses too much. The real blow came when a harsh new politics of immigration came in, which made it harder for skilled south Asian chefs to work in the country, just as the wider British public were changing the ways in which they consumed curry.

Neanderthals Were People, Too, by Jon Mooallem, New York Times

One British geologist, William King, suspected something more radical. Instead of being the remains of an atypical human, they might have belonged to a typical member of an alternate humanity. In 1864, he published a paper introducing it as such — an extinct human species, the first ever discovered. King named this species after the valley where it was found, which itself had been named for the ecstatic poet who once wandered it. He called it Homo neanderthalensis: Neanderthal Man.

Who was Neanderthal Man? King felt obligated to describe him. But with no established techniques for interpreting archaeological material like the skull, he fell back on racism and phrenology. He focused on the peculiarities of the Neanderthal’s skull, including the “enormously projecting brow.” No living humans had skeletal features remotely like these, but King was under the impression that the skulls of contemporary African and Australian aboriginals resembled the Neanderthals’ more than “ordinary” white-people skulls. So extrapolating from his low opinion of what he called these “savage” races, he explained that the Neanderthal’s skull alone was proof of its moral “darkness” and stupidity. “The thoughts and desires which once dwelt within it never soared beyond those of a brute,” he wrote. Other scientists piled on. So did the popular press. We knew almost nothing about Neanderthals, but already we assumed they were ogres and losers.

Why Do Canadians Say 'Eh'?, by Dan Nosowitz, Atlas Obscura

When I told friends in the Pennsylvania suburb where I grew up that I was going to college in Canada, their responses tended to come in two forms. One was about the weather; to a southern Pennsylvanian, any temperature below 25 degrees Fahrenheit is cause for panic. The other was a volley of linguistic stereotypes about the nation of Canada, involving either “aboot” or “eh.”

Canadians are not particularly amused when you eagerly point out their “eh” habit, but the word has become emblematic of the country in a way that is now mostly out of their control. In response, some have embraced it, adopting it as an element of Canadian patriotism. But what even is this word? How did it come to be so associated with Canada?

The Problem With “Playing God”, by Bina Venkataraman, Slate

Since its publication nearly 200 years ago, Shelley’s gothic novel has been read as a cautionary tale of the dangers of creation and experimentation. James Whale’s 1931 film took the message further, assigning explicitly the hubris of playing God to the mad scientist. As his monster comes to life, Dr. Frankenstein, played by Colin Clive, triumphantly exclaims: “Now I know what it feels like to be God!”

The admonition against playing God has since been ceaselessly invoked as a rhetorical bogeyman. Secular and religious, critic and journalist alike have summoned the term to deride and outright dismiss entire areas of research and technology, including stem cells, genetically modified crops, recombinant DNA, geoengineering, and gene editing. As we near the two-century commemoration of Shelley’s captivating story, we would be wise to shed this shorthand lesson—and to put this part of the Frankenstein legacy to rest in its proverbial grave.

Bern, Baby, Bern, by Tom Gallagher, Los Angeles Review of Books

But for many in the United States, what Sanders was saying was kind of crazy — or at least new. His campaign arguably introduced the country not to 21st-century politics, but to 20th-century politics. As Ben Cohen, of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, told the Sanders campaign kickoff crowd, “This guy’s been saying and doing the same stuff for the last thirty years. If it weren’t so inspiring, it’d be boring.”

Sanders has now written the book on social democratic campaigning in the United States — literally. It’s called Our Revolution, and it’s structured kind of like one of his campaign rallies (I was a Sanders delegate to the convention and therefore went to many of these events). Part one is preliminaries, and in part two Sanders talks issues, issues, issues — and it contains much more detail than any campaign rally. Either part stands on its own.

Wow, Weather, by Riane Konc, New Yorker

Have you seen the weather? It is so much weather right now, I’m considering staying home instead of dealing with all this weather. All I know is that NO ONE can drive in this weather. People from my state are the worst at driving, especially when weather comes. It’s like they’ve never seen weather before!