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[Edward] Snowden said commercial malware such as Pegasus was so powerful that ordinary people could in effect do nothing to stop it. Asked how people could protect themselves, he said: “What can people do to protect themselves from nuclear weapons?

“There are certain industries, certain sectors, from which there is no protection, and that’s why we try to limit the proliferation of these technologies. We don’t allow a commercial market in nuclear weapons.”

David Pegg and Paul Lewis, “Edward Snowden Calls for Spyware Trade Ban amid Pegasus Revelations”

[M]aybe that was all I really wanted—to feel all the same things I was used to feeling, and to do the same things I was used to doing, the only difference being that I had a little more time, and a little less work, and a slightly higher opinion of myself.

Lydia Davis, “The Letter to the Foundation”

I am trying to learn that this playful man who teases me is the same as that serious man talking money to me so seriously he does not even see me anymore and that patient man offering me advice in times of trouble and that angry man slamming the door as he leaves the house. I have often wanted the playful man to be more serious, and the serious man to be less serious, and the patient man to be more playful. As for the angry man, he is a stranger to me and I do not feel it is wrong to hate him. Now I am learning that if I say bitter words to the angry man as he leaves the house, I am at the same time wounding the others, the ones I do not want to wound, the playful man teasing, the serious man talking money, and the patient man offering advice. Yet I look at the patient man, for instance, whom I would want above all to protect from such bitter words as mine, and though I tell myself he is the same man as the others, I can only believe I said those words, not to him, but to another, my enemy, who deserved all my anger.

Lydia Davis, “Trying to Learn”, in Almost No Memory: Stories

In the narrative imagination of Israel, the gods of Egypt are stand-ins for all the gods of several empires. What they all have in common is that they are confiscatory gods who demand endless produce and who authorize endless systems of production that are, in principle, insatiable. Thus, the mention of “Egypt” brings the God of Israel into the orbit of socioeconomic systems and practices, and inevitably sets this God on a collision course with the gods of insatiable productivity.

Walter Brueggeman, Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now

The idea of a “culture industry”—originally an oxymoron coined in 1947 to sum up the danger facing art (for how could personal culture be churned out on an industrial model?)—is used unironically by [Louis] Menand to name the vastly scaled-up production and consumption of all artistic experience. “The culture industries, as they expanded, absorbed and commercialized independent and offbeat culture-makers, and the university, as it expanded, swallowed up the worlds of creative writing and dissident political opinion.” With his eye on this process, we miss out on artists and thinkers who dug deep and stayed home, who produced as hermits or eccentrics or introverted students of their art. And I wondered about rival art forms and streams, such as jazz from 1945 to 1970. Bop, post-bop, and free jazz evolved an American art music that was the real successor to Debussy, Schoenberg, and Bartók (never mind John Cage). It gained in artistic complexity and superiority even as it decreased in market share.

Mark Greif, “The Opportunists”

This type of embarrassing discovery, in which something you thought was one thing is actually two things, and each of those two things is actually ten things, seems like a simple function of the duration and quality of one’s attention. With effort, we can become attuned to things, able to pick up and then hopefully differentiate finer and finer frequencies each time.

Jenny Odell, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

Why do you feel good when your head comes up with clear thoughts […]? You create something, you bring things together. You show connections (one doesn’t create anything oneself, but brings ideas from elsewhere together in one’s head), and this seems diverting. Does this distract you from existence? Does it create a web of illusion? Or is it connected to the fact that, when formulating such clear thoughts, you open yourself up to the impersonal and are freed from your own self for a time? You play along. You don’t speak to something, you simply speak with. You join in. But it not your own self that you join.

Anselm Kiefer, 2 January 1999, in Notebooks: Volume 1, 1998–1999, translated by Tess Lewis

Say an idea is math
without numbers.

For instance, you could say
that an idea
distorts consciousness
as a massive object
distorts space.

Such distortion
is sometimes known
as attraction.

It pulls
a debris field
into orbit

(or a halo of microplastics).

You slip
from one thought
to the next
as a snake
sloughs off old skin.

Thinking back
is less reliable
than you might think.

Rae Armantrout, “Think Back”

There is nothing more interesting than time: the days that are endless, the days that get away. There are days of the distant past that remain so vivid to me that I could walk back into them and pick up the conversation mid-sentence, while there are other days (weeks, months, people, places) I couldn’t recall to save my life. One of the last things I understand when I’m putting a novel together is the structure of time. When does the story start and when does it end? Will time be linear or can it stutter and skip? At what point does our understanding of the action shift?

Ann Patchett, “These Precious Days”

What most thought was a “work first” welfare program turned out to be a slush fund for state governments. Michigan, for instance, uses far of its block grant to fund college scholarships (whose recipients include kids) than to provide cash aid to very poor families. Many states have become completely dependent on TANF dollars to plug holes in their budgets across numerous programs.

H. Luke Shaefer and Kathryn J. Edin, “How to End Extreme Child Poverty”