“This is table 60,” he said. “Stephen Miller.”

We stood there taking in the article’s lurid contents, uttering “Oh, my God” every few seconds. As an unreformed Bernie Bro, I had been pretty confident people hated Donald Trump for essentially the same reason the Trumpers hated immigrants, bureaucrats, globalists, etc.: The ruling class had identified in him an easy stand-in for the legitimate fears and grievances of a populace it was not yet finished humiliating in the pursuit of profit. As a waitress, it was hard to hate anyone who ordered 3 ounces of caviar at brunch, and yet as I read about a teenage Miller delivering a speech to his class decrying the laziness of the school janitors and defriending a childhood buddy on account of his “Latino heritage,” I wondered if I had been too busy crumbing tablecloths and marking silverware to notice something radiantly new and unprecedentedly horrible about this new strain of right-wing ideology. I felt lucky when he tipped 18.5 percent, though my average was usually around 23; I honestly felt charmed he’d tipped at all, considering my pitiful performance on the caviar-knowledge segment of the meal. Had Miller left me five bucks on a $500 check, it wouldn’t have ranked in the top 10 worst things he had done that day.

For generations, the Group of Seven was ubiquitous. But dissent over its prominence was also present. And, to its credit, A Like Vision allows its contributors to air some of their discontent. An essay by jewellery and textile designer Tarralik Duffy is notable in its honesty: “My first reflection on seeing Varley’s Iceberg was, Am I allowed to think this is ugly?” Others articulate their unease with the way the group’s works have upheld colonial values. Wilkinson, for example, criticizes MacDonald’s painting of British Columbia’s Lake O’Hara for making the land appear unpopulated even though it was the traditional territory of the Ktunaxa people. As she writes: “This painting thus offers us a fantasy.”

That fantasy is something that also bothers Bonnie Devine, founding chair of OCAD University’s Indigenous Visual Culture Program. In her own essay, she examines how these settlers’ perspectives of the North were inadequate in capturing the land because they lacked a fundamental understanding of it. “So go ahead, Painter,” she writes. “Try to uncoil the bulky length of Pic Island. She will twist away and gather herself elsewhere like a drift of heavy snow just out of your reach.”

  • As the Pentagon develops more algorithm-driven weapons, questions arise about how they will be able to make ethical decisions. Writing for the Washington Post, Zachary Fryer-Biggs writes:

“Some of [the cadets] maybe program too much ethics in there, and maybe they’re not killing anyone or maybe they put just enough in,” Maj. Scott Parsons, an ethics professor at West Point who helps teach the lessons, told me when I visited in 2019. “Our job is, we fight wars and kill other people. Are we doing it the right way? Are we discriminating and killing the people we should be and … not killing the people we shouldn’t be? And that’s what we want the cadets to have a long, hard think about.”

The scale of the exercises at West Point, in which roughly 100 students have participated so far, is small, but the dilemmas they present are emblematic of how the U.S. military is trying to come to grips with the likely loss of at least some control over the battlefield to smart machines. The future may well be shaped by computer algorithms dictating how weapons move and target enemies. And the cadets’ uncertainty about how much authority to give the robots and how to interact with them in conflict mirrors the broader military’s ambivalence about whether and where to draw a line on letting war machines kill on their own. Such autonomous machines were once so far beyond the technical grasp of scientists that debating their ethics was merely an intellectual exercise. But as the technology has caught up to the idea, that debate has become very real.

Lee may have done groundbreaking work, but his personal version of heroism was, at heart, old-fashioned: He envisioned himself as an icon who, by his own doing, redeemed some small part of the world. He believed not just in his own myth but in that of America: a place filled with well-intentioned, bootstrapping individuals who shape their own destinies. And the superhero genre, even Stan Lee’s version of it, propagates this national narrative, with its focus on strong men, its simplistic visions of good versus evil, and its glorification of justifiable violence.

An ancient myth about Stonehenge, first recorded 900 years ago, tells of the wizard Merlin leading men to Ireland to capture a magical stone circle called the Giants’ Dance and rebuilding it in England as a memorial to the dead.

Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account had been dismissed, partly because he was wrong on other historical facts, although the bluestones of the monument came from a region of Wales that was considered Irish territory in his day.

Now a vast stone circle created by our Neolithic ancestors has been discovered in Wales with features suggesting that the 12th-century legend may not be complete fantasy.

John Adams and Prince Hall would have passed each other on the streets of Boston. They almost certainly were aware of each other. Hall was no minor figure, though his early days and family life are shrouded in some mystery. Probably he was born in Boston in 1735 (not in England or Barbados, as some have suggested). It is possible that he lived for a period as a freeman before he was formally emancipated. He may have been one of the thousands of African Americans who fought in the Continental Army; his son, Primus, certainly was. As a freeman, Hall became for a time a leatherworker, passed through a period of poverty, and then ultimately ran a shop, from which he sold, among other things, his own writings advocating for African American causes. Probably he was not married to every one of the five women in Boston who were married to someone named Prince Hall in the years between 1763 and 1804, but he may have been. Whether he was married to Primus’s mother, a woman named Delia, is also unclear. Between 1780 and 1801, the city’s tax collectors found their way to some 1,184 different Black taxpayers. Prince Hall and his son appear in those tax records for 15 of those 21 years, giving them the longest period of recorded residence in the city of any Black person we know about in that era. The DePaul University historian Chernoh M. Sesay Jr.’s excellent dissertation, completed in 2006, provides the most thorough and rigorously analyzed academic review of Hall’s biography that is currently available. (The dissertation, which I have drawn on here, has not yet been published in full, but I hope it will be.)

  • An incredible review by probably the best book reviewer out there, Parul Sehgal, about Vanessa Springora’s Consent, an important memoir about French writer Gabriel Matzneff, who is a pedophile and rapist. She writes the following about the French establishment that protected him:

When Springora, distraught by G.M.’s deceptions, ran to one of his friends, the philosopher Emil Cioran, she was chastised. “It is an immense honor to have been chosen by him,” he scolded her. “Your role is to accompany him on the path of creation, and to bow to his impulses.” Teachers leered at her: “You’re the girl who was dating G.M., aren’t you? I’ve read all his books. I’m a big fan.”

“It’s not easy to escape the zeitgeist,” Springora writes, situating so much of this indifference to the spirit of the 1970s, where repression of youthful sexuality was seen as a form of oppression. “It’s forbidden to forbid” was the mantra. G.M. had a powerful hand in creating this atmosphere that would protect him. In 1977, he drafted an open letter arguing for the decriminalization of sexual relations between minors and adults, which was signed by Roland Barthes, Gilles Deleuze, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre among others. Later he conscripted Springora herself into his cause, using her letters in his work as proof for the wholesomeness of their love.

“At the time, there was a lot of discussion about whether the movie’s slurs were insensitive and gratuitous or simply ‘harmless jokes’,” wrote Vang. “I found it unnerving, the laughter that the slurs elicited in theaters with predominantly white audiences. And it was always white people who would say, ‘Can’t you take a joke?’”

As Vang reflects on this today he shudders at the thought of what all of this meant. He added, “More than a decade later, the anti-Asian racism that was once disguised as good-natured humor has been revealed for what it is, thanks to Covid-19.”

Required Reading is published every Saturday, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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