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The Art of the Protest

Six Ideas That Made Us Think

1.

This Is How You Write About Hard Rock

On the 30th anniversary of Def Leppard’s monumental hair-metal album, Hysteria, Rob Havilla writes an unforgettable encomium. Is it tribute or parody? Does it even matter? Every sentence is brilliant:
If you stacked every stripper pole ever utilized during a routine set to “Pour Some Sugar on Me” end-to-end, that chain would reach the sun. Which is actually quite shrewd: There is no better rock song in history that immediately makes every dude in the room 30 percent dumber. But numbers — be they sales figures, or chart positions, or list placements — can’t do Hysteria justice. Its appeal is spiritual, elemental, feral, sensual. Even biblical.

2.

Hurricane Harvey at Harvard

Harvey Mansfield has the distinction of being both the most revered and the most loathed professor at Harvard. He has been there since 1949, teaching political philosophy and wading into every contemporary controversy. When Boston Magazine sat down with him for an interview, a number of predictably strong opinions emerged:
Today, getting a B is like a stab to the gut. There are essentially three grades at Harvard: B-plus, A-minus, and A. And the most frequently given grade at Harvard is a straight A. And the median grade is A-minus and that’s because you can’t go higher than A. By no means is it just Harvard doing this. It is typical. But Harvard is the top of typical. For a while we were giving 91 percent honors at graduation. It wasn’t an honor to get honors; it was just a dishonor not to.

3.

Can We Agree to Disagree?

Since his ouster from Google, the contentious memo-writer James Damore has been an active presence on Twitter, linking to the endless interviews he has done and recent articles that echo his point of view. But one link worth clicking is an essay on “how to disagree” written almost a decade ago by Paul Graham, the founder of Silicon Valley’s most successful start-up incubator. The topic is timely:
The most convincing form of disagreement is refutation. It’s also the rarest, because it’s the most work. Indeed, the disagreement hierarchy forms a kind of pyramid, in the sense that the higher you go the fewer instances you find. To refute someone you probably have to quote them. You have to find a “smoking gun,” a passage in whatever you disagree with that you feel is mistaken, and then explain why it’s mistaken. If you can’t find an actual quote to disagree with, you may be arguing with a straw man.

4.

The Art of the Protest

Once again, we live in an age of protest. Appropriately, OpenCulture has reposted a superb collection of street posters from the 1968 student uprisings in Paris, providing more proof that art is often better than politics that inspires it:

5.

Mining Goop’s Wisdom

Gabriella Paiella has performed an important public service. She’s ranked the 23 most idiotic things that Gwyneth Paltrow has said on her always-ripe-for-parody website Goop. Trimming the list down to merely 23 items must’ve taken hard work. One sample:
Paltrow: I’ve been stung by bees. It’s a thousands of years old treatment called apitherapy. People use it to get rid of inflammation and scarring. It’s actually pretty incredible if you research it. But, man, it’s painful.

This wasn’t on Goop directly, but Paltrow’s quote to the New York Times about getting stung by bees for beauty sums up what Goop’s all about: doing stuff that’s seemingly useless, expensive, and maybe actively harmful, in order to be slightly hotter.

6.

What’s Wrong with Cities?

For more than a decade, Richard Florida put himself at the cutting-edge of the American urban renaissance by praising the “creative classes” for their capacity to rejuvenate cities and jumpstart economies. Now, according to Jacobin’sSam Wetherwell, Florida’s new book builds off an unstated premise that his widely influential analysis was off the mark:
Though Florida stops just short of saying it, he all but admits that he was wrong. He argues that the creative classes have grabbed hold of many of the world’s great cities and choked them to death. As a result, the fifty largest metropolitan areas house just 7 percent of the world’s population but generate 40 percent of its growth. These “superstar” cities are becoming gated communities, their vibrancy replaced with deracinated streets full of Airbnbs and empty summer homes.