Reflective Structures, Rewritten Histories

L. Rhodes

David Tallerman's "The Only Way Out Is Farther In," at short fiction magazine The Dark, presents a beguiling metaphor for the way in which changes in our closest personal relationships can inadvertently weird the whole world.

In the course of writing about psychiatric work in deeply artificial environments, like submarines, Geoff Manaugh at BLDGBLOG forwards an interpretation of J.G. Ballard's novels that I find more appealing than, say, Ben Wheatley's more straightforwardly Marxist adaptation of High Rise.

Before the invention of radar, the British experimented with "sound mirrors": permanent installations with concave, concrete surfaces designed to reflect the sound waves of enemy aircraft into microphones along the coast. This photoessay on the BBC's site shows what remains of the original WWI structures.

The French are apparently debating whether the Cathars -- the reputed victims of one of the rare Crusades fought in Europe itself -- were an actual religious identity or not. Since identification with the Cathars is a key element in some modern national identities, that's a debate with more than purely historical interest.

"Spiritual colonialism" is the term one scholar uses in this New Yorker exploration of the way in which the most popular English translations of Rumi excise almost everything explicitly Islamic from his poetry. Some, like the free renderings of Deepak Chopra, trade on Rumi's name to sell works that are almost entirely untethered to what he wrote, but even the more faithful versions ignore that,

even if Rumi was heterodox, it’s important to recognize that he was heterodox in a Muslim context—and that Islamic culture, centuries ago, had room for such heterodoxy. Rumi’s works are not just layered with religion; they represent the historical dynamism within Islamic scholarship.

An interesting ideological contradiction in this New York Times profile of a Chengdu company that helps enforce the government's censorship standards on Chinese websites: the workforce of mostly 20-something college graduates have to be taught and tested on actual history, like the Tiananmen Square protests, in order to ensure that only the sanitized version shows up online. The article also notes that other nations, the U.S. among them, have shown interest in the sort of constraints China has imposed on its local internet.

For fans of animation, here's an archive of Japanese Animated Film Classics from the first half of the 20th century, interesting not least of all as a tour through some of the early steps toward modern anime.