A regular spot to share some ideas about what’s good and what’s not on the interwebthingy. But, you know, it’s your life, so feel free to agree, disagree or ignore what follows.
What caught my attention last week
Slow Down, You Move Too Fast
The old saying that “A lie is halfway around the world before truth has put its shoes on” seems startlingly apposite in the case of Timothy Hunt.
Jonathan Foreman at Commentary digs into what Dr Hunt said in Seoul and why, by the time he got off the plane in London, he had been found guilty and condemned by the Twittersphere.
Sexism, in all its lesser and greater forms, is a scourge. Making shit up doesn’t help the cause.
This week’s Economist has an article called ‘It’s expensive to be poor‘ that looks at the extra costs faced by poor people in America. It’s mainly about financial services, but it also highlights the inflation disparity:
Inflation has also squeezed the poor more in recent years. The prices of items which soak up much of their budgets—such as rent, food and energy—have risen faster than other goods and services.
From 2000 to 2013—the latest year for which figures are available—inflation has been higher for those in poverty for 139 of 168 months, according the Chicago Federal Reserve. As a result of this inflation premium, prices rose 3.2% more for the poor over this period.
It reminded me of research from a few years back that looked at whether people were poor because they made bad decisions, or they made bad decisions because they were poor. Turns out to be more the latter than the former. Emily Badger had the story at The Atlantic‘s City Lab.
This research suggests that the reality of poverty actually makes it harder to execute fundamental life skills. Being poor means, as the authors write, “coping with not just a shortfall of money, but also with a concurrent shortfall of cognitive resources.”
Face To Face
The Guardian‘s extract from Simon Schama’s The Face of Britain (a survey of British portraiture) starts with his memory of the birth of his daughter, and the moment they looked at each other’s faces.
Around 2 am, the rain hammering down on Brookline Avenue, a girl was lifted from the pond of blood, howling on cue, wiped clean of vernix and set in my trembling arms.
She stopped crying. A heavy sleep descended. But then after no more than 10 minutes, and possibly less, she opened her eyes, unnaturally enormous in a smooth, open face. Those pupils were fully operational, the irises a startling cobalt. We looked at each other through clouded vision, giving each other the once-over. So much for the received wisdom. I knew my daughter was staring at me, and with an intensity that made it feel like a mute interview for fatherhood. She looked worried; we exchanged anxieties. I was not confident I had got the job.
Like any good historian, Schama is suspicious of the new, and in particular the way that digital technology is changing how and when and why we look at faces:
We live at a paradoxical moment when an image is caught and then we look down at it, since that downward gaze has come to consume a monstrous part of daily routine. Whole micro-universes of sounds and sights are assembled in small machines as an extension of what we take to be the particular bundle of tastes that constitutes our identity. If we are not all Narcissus, we are nearly all Echo. We have never been more networked, yet we have never been more trapped by solipsism.
What I’m Trying To Ignore Next Week
They populate my sleeping and waking dreams, they fill my nostrils, there’s a tremor on my molars where the slight bite crunch would be, their voices fill my ears with their siren seductive music. Get behind me Satan!