Tuesday, May 01, 2012 2:32 PM
wisdom has it that hindsight is 20/20, but twenty years after the
LA Riots we’re still looking back with questions. New stories about
what happened are coming to light, as are new analyses about
circumstances that gave rise to disorder. While many publications
are using this anniversary as a chance for reflection, the underlying
question always seems to be, “Could it happen again?”
Understanding the causes leading up to the LA Riots is crucial to answering that question. A People’s Guide to Los Angeles offers an excellent brief on the circumstances that led to the riots
(unfortunately, you’ll have to get your hands on a print copy). Authors
Laura Pulido, Laura Barraclough, and Wendy Cheng cite “four powerful
and intertwined dynamics: residential segregation, police repression,
economic restructuring, and collective resistance.” The Guide illuminates
how structural inequalities bred community activism, which played a
crucial factor in the Watts Riots of 1965, the creation of the Black
Panther Party, and the uprising in 1992 (all responses to widespread
abuse of power by the police).
The Mental Floss History of the United States offers more causes and outlines the five days of disorder following the acquittal of the officers that beat Rodney King. Los Angeles Magazine supplies a timeline focused on race-related civil disorder in South LA, as well as photo documentation of the riots. The final toll according to Mental Floss:
“[s]even thousand fires had destroyed 613 buildings and damaged another
960, while looters robbed and vandalized 2,700 businesses, many of
which never reopened. The total cost of the damage was $1.5 billion,
almost all in African American neighborhoods. As in previous riots, most
of the victims were also minorities: the death toll included 25 African
Americans, 16 Latinos, eight whites, two Asians, and two immigrants
from the Middle East.”
those impacted by the riots, Korean Americans have emerged with a
strong voice. Many Korean immigrants did not speak English fluently
enough to speak with the press in 1992. Their children are now old
enough to share powerful memories of 4-29, or Saigu. KoreAm has compiled an oral history
detailing how Korean merchants and individuals were targeted during the
riots, from looting and burning in Koreatown to media portrayal of
Korean immigrants as angry and violent. The publication also shares
reflections on how Saigu created solidarity within the Korean American community.
In Guernica, E. Tammy Kim, shares memories of the riot alongside her recent pilgrimage to South LA in search of “the lessons of 1992.”
A Korean American in Seattle at the time of the riots, Kim finds that,
while demographics have changed, many circumstances are the same. The
population is now mostly Latino, though African Americans and Koreans
still inhabit the neighborhood. “Outside Lee’s Market, I offered to help
Rita Nunley with two plastic bags full of groceries. An African
American woman, hair tucked into a kerchief and eyes ringed with dark
circles, she was a distant relation of Latasha Harlins [an African
American teen killed by a Korean shop owner in March, 1991]. In 1992,
Nunley was working for the Post Office. She remembers her boss locking
the staff inside the branch office until the coast was deemed clear.
Rita had hoped the riots would change the city’s inequalities, but, 'Conditions are the same now,' she said. 'I don’t know why it’s not
happening again.'” Similar thoughts were echoed by South LA teens, whose
teachers struggle with how to teach the riots when the history is still being written.
A recent survey found that most Angelenos believe that racial tensions in the city have eased reports The Pacific Standard.
However, the same study found that “public education, transportation,
jobs, street quality, air quality, housing costs and health care quality
have gotten worse since 1992.” The Pacific Standard makes no mention of police brutality, though Tim Cavanaugh of Reason claims that the problem of a “police force more focused on terrorizing the citizens than on solving crimes [...] has been largely solved, thanks in large measure to William Bratton’s work as chief of police.”
While some publications can’t resist the temptation to fan the flames of racial tension, others show that racism does not always trump compassion. Recent Los Angeles Magazine covers, featured in coverjunkie, put a face on the ever-shifting social constructs of race and ethnicity. And The Awl’s Maria Bustillos reminds us that “Reginald Denny, a white guy, was rescued by a black guy named Bobby Green, Jr., who saw [Denny’s] beating taking place on live television, realized that it was going on nearby and rushed out to help.”
Sources: A People’s Guide to Los Angeles, Mental Floss, Los Angeles Magazine, KoreAm, Guernica,Pacific Standard, Reason, coverjunkie, The Awl
Images: First Marine Division along Crenshaw, from licensed under Creative Commons. "I am Black I am White I am L.A." from Los Angeles Magazine, design director Steve Banks, via coverjunkie.
Monday, April 18, 2011 1:40 PM
David Foster Wallace is a difficult genius. Starting with the publication of his debut novel The Broom of the System in 1987, the postmodern author’s dense, grandly-footnoted, ontological examinations of mundane subjects—cruise ships, high-school tennis, the IRS—have beguiled, daunted, and delighted readers. The Pale King, Wallace’s almost-finished novel chronicling the life of a tax auditor, was posthumously published (Wallace committed suicide in 2008) on April 15. In the weeks leading up to The Pale King’s publication, Wallace’s last work was met with both ebullient praise and sharp criticism.
Jonathan Franzen is probably Wallace’s most high-profile fanboy. Now that Franzen’s has some freedom from Freedom, he penned a piece for New Yorker about his travels to the remote Pacific Island of Masafuera to catch up on some Robinson Crusoe and mourn Wallace’s death. (Subscription required).
Authors David Lipsky (also Wallace’s biographer) and Rick Moody praised The Pale King on KCRW’s Bookworm. Moody reads the novel’s opening lines as well. You can listen to the podcast here.
If you want to dig deeper into Wallace’s personal life, consider joining up with his cultish fanclub, The Howling Fantods. Or, for that matter, you can follow the path of The Awl’s Maria Bustillos and visit the Wallace archives at University of Texas at Austin’s Ransom Center. Make what you will out of his obsession with self-help books.
As Kottke points out, even Wallace’s classics aren’t universally loved. A prankster posted the opening page of Wallace’s epic tome Infinite Jest on Yahoo! Answers under the subject line “First page of my book. what do you think?” Although the expertise of the commenters shouldn’t be forgotten, the experiment elicited some interesting responses. “Honestly, my first thought was, ‘There are so dang many HYPHENS!’ and I couldn’t concentrate until I didn’t see any more,” wrote one; “No discernible voice/tone in this writing. Rambling descriptions. I, frankly, do not care where each and every person is seated. I don’t care what shoe you’re wearing. If you take out all the unnecessary details, you’d be left with about seven words,” wrote another.
Bookslut’s Jessa Crispin is no fan of Wallace herself (“I expect my current obsession with Henry James is met with bafflement by quite a few who feel the same way about him”) points to a sharp piece of criticism from Prospect’s Geoff Dyer, who suffers from a severe literary allergy. “I liked the idea of someone swimming in big modernist and postmodern theory and still making room for human feeling,” writes Dyer, “but a page—sometimes even a sentence, or an essay title—brings me out in hives.”
Sources: Bookslut, Bookworm, Kottke, New Yorker (subscription required), Prospect, The Awl
Thursday, June 17, 2010 10:52 AM
So, some people are concerned that Obama’s oil spill speech was too linguistically ambitious. CNN reports that
Tuesday night's speech from the Oval Office of the White House was written to a 9.8 grade level, said Paul J.J. Payack, president of Global Language Monitor. The Austin, Texas-based company analyzes and catalogues trends in word usage and word choice and their impact on culture.
Though the president used slightly less than four sentences per paragraph, his 19.8 words per sentence "added some difficulty for his target audience," Payack said.
What is this, SATVerbalSection-gate? No, it isn’t, because that's not a thing. For my money, The Awl has the only comment that matters. Check the title on their quicklink: “Why Won’t Barack Obama Talk To Us Like The Morons We Are?”
Source: CNN, The Awl
Image by jurvetson, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, June 08, 2010 1:22 PM
Writing for The Awl, Maria Bustillos argues convincingly against recent suggestions that the cognitive habits enforced by web browsing are making people dumb. Taking on Nicholas Carr’s Atlantic article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” (recently expanded into a book), Bustillos dismantles one of Carr’s main ideas. As she says:
Hyperlinks, the proliferation of which Mr. Carr largely blames for his mental infirmity, are in no way different from footnotes. Footnotes, too, demand “microseconds of decision-making attention.” Just as a footnote does, a hyperlink beckons you away from the main text in order to examine tangentially-related but relevant material. Exactly like a hyperlink, a footnote often has the effect of sending you down a series of rabbit holes, from which you emerge hours later, armed with a dozen other books—that is, if you want to investigate the subject in fine detail. If you don’t, then by all means, you can skip the footnotes.
So do footnotes also “sap cognitive power from the reading process”?
Heavily annotated works have been useful for centuries to students of every discipline we’ve got, and their distraction-potential, though clear, is completely eclipsed by the invaluable advantage of access to a ton of carefully-signposted material that can greatly ease the conduct of serious study. It’s well worth the extra effort of concentration; if you want the goods, you’ll put up with the cost.
Carr had addressed the comparison of footnotes and hyperlinks, noting that
[u]nlike footnotes, to which they’re sometimes likened, hyperlinks don’t merely point to related works; they propel you toward them.
But Bustillos isn’t having it:
The fogginess of this reasoning—what does this mean, ‘propel’?—is evident throughout the original essay. The means by which one navigates through text are consistent within the medium—you page through all the pages of a book, and you click through all the pages of a website. For some reason, “propulsion” is supposed to be bad for you and “pointing” isn’t, but Carr doesn’t even attempt to explain why.
Source: The Awl
Image by Anonymous9000, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, March 11, 2010 1:23 PM
If you want to be the most important poet in America, don’t bother writing great poetry. It’s too time consuming. And even if you manage to write a great poem, all your other poetry will look worse in comparison. Instead, Jim Behrle told a crowd at the St. Mark’s Poetry Project, poets should devote themselves to relentless, 24/7 careerism. In remarks reprinted on the Poetry Foundation website, Behrle advises: “Your friends are really just contacts, and you have to think of them that way. If dropping their name isn’t worth anything, you may have to ditch them.” Poets should Tweet, Facebook, and ask for fame from friends and anyone who listens. According to Behrle:
How can you become the most important poet in America by tomorrow? It’s not as hard as you think. Poets used to have to pass out poetry-reading flyers by hand, one at a time, or publish poems one at a time in magazines, slowly building a career. But technology has changed all that. Now you can spam every poet in America with every new poem. Start a fan page for yourself and your books on Facebook. Blog about your every thought—they don’t even have to be astute thoughts. Most poets in America have boring office jobs in which they are screwing around on the Internet most of the time. Just mention the names of as many contemporary poets as you can in all your blog posts. You will catch all the self-googlers self-googling. Self-promotion is the only kind of promotion left. Without poetry reviewers to rely on, only you can spread the word about your product. And if you spread it suddenly, relentlessly, brutally, then you’ll have name recognition from here to Hawaii . . . and that’s all you need, because there are two kinds of poets: those you’ve heard of and those you haven’t. Almost all of us fall into the latter category, but not you! If only you take my advice.
(Thanks, The Awl.)
Image by Nic's events, licensed under Creative Commons.
Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.
Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!
Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of Utne Reader for only $29.95 (USA only).
Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 6 issues of Utne Reader!