On Cultural Critic Dwight Macdonald and Midcult

Mac the Knife: On Dwight Macdonald | The Nation‘No matter how fervently Macdonald avowed that he detested middlebrow consumers, he needed them as much as they needed him. Much of the lucid, cutting criticism he wrote was addressed to that “intelligent layman” who might otherwise succumb to Midcult’s temptations; Macdonald, in turn, was the guide who discriminated between the phony gesture and the real thing. He was a predator who required a steady diet of prey to survive, and for all that he was vexed by middlebrow cultural consumption, he was sustained by it too. His panic now seems less prescient than misplaced. At a time when reading up on Kafka is neither more nor less valid than keeping up with the Kardashians, a thriving demographic of middle-class strivers looks to me less ludicrous or menacing than the vacancy it has left behind.’ — Jennifer Szalai (via The Nation).


So Should I Start Cooking with Pepper Spray?



Fox News Food Products: “In my recent post on the poisonous nature of pepper spray, I noted that the name makes it sound more innocuous than it really is. We’re talking, after all, about a chemical agent potent enough that our soldiers are banned by international treaty from using it in other countries:

But we’ve taken to calling it pepper spray, I think, because that makes it sound so much more benign than it really is, like something just a grade or so above what we might mix up in a home kitchen. The description hints maybe at that eye-stinging effect that the cook occasionally experiences when making something like a jalapeno-based salsa, a little burn, nothing too serious.

As it turns out, this is exactly the message that Fox News is promoting to its views. And not subtly either. As Gawker reported, last night News co-hosts Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly mulled over the pepper-spraying of peacefully protesting students at UC-Davis this weekend. Why all the outrage, Kelly wondered. After all “pepper spray is a food product, essentially.”

On Twitter, this has launched some fairly hilarious suggestions from my fellow science writers for potential Fox News Food Products…” — Deborah Blum (via Speakeasy Science).


What Kind of Fish are You?

Kalliopi Monoyios: ‘I can’t say for certain whether New York based photographer Ted Sabarese had science or evolution in mind when he conceived of this series. But I’m almost glad he never responded to my follow-up questions about his inspiration behind these. Part of the fun of art is its mirror-like quality: everyone sees something different when faced with it because everyone brings a different set of experiences and expectations to the table. When I look at these I see equal parts “you are what you eat,” “your inner fish,” and “United Colors of Benetton.” ‘ (via Symbiartic, Scientific American Blog Network.


The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy

Police Tape

“The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class’s venality.” — Naomi Wolf (via guardian.co.uk).