At the hookah lounge. By Cody Delistraty.

Commercializing the Counterculture: How the Summer Music Festival Went Mainstream — Pacific Standard

With painted Volkswagen buses, talk of “free love,” and other reminders of the Woodstock era replaced by advertising and corporate sponsorships, hippie culture may be dying, but a new subculture—a sort of purgatory between hipster and hippie—is on the rise.

At the bottom of a dirt path marked by a yellow question mark painted crudely onto a circular piece of wood, a soothing voice can be heard: “The power is in the exhale. Release yourself. Lose yourself.”

“Now,” the voice says, “Feel your heart move into your neighbor’s heart. Now bring it back to yourself once more.” It is 1 p.m. at the What the Festival in Dufur, Oregon, and an afternoon session of “Good Times Yoga” is being held in the Illuminated Forest. Trek deeper into the Illuminated Forest and you’ll find a Japanese tea lounge; a makeshift Buddhist temple; and various art installations, like a wooden unicorn, a life-size stag made only of mirrors, and a massive dream catcher. Emerge from the trees to discover a hookah lounge furnished with vintage couches and coffee tables. Continue further into the middle of the festival—passing the organic coffee vendors and the fire twirlers until you get to the pool party helmed by a chilled out DJ—and you’ll be reminded that female toplessness is technically legal, that not everyone makes wise tattoo decisions, and that questions like, “Who here is on acid?” are sometimes answered with resounding cheers and a sea of raised hands.

Read the rest of the story at Pacific Standard

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The Importance of Eating Together — The Atlantic

After my mother passed away and my brother went to study in New Zealand, the first thing that really felt different was the dinner table. My father and I began eating separately. We went out to dinners with our friends, ate sandwiches in front of our computers, delivery pizzas while watching movies. Some days we rarely saw each other at all. Then, a few weeks before I was set to leave for university, my father walked downstairs. “You know, I think we should start eating together even if it’s just you and me,” he said. “Your mother would have wanted that.” It wasn’t ideal, of course—the meals we made weren’t particularly amazing and we missed the presence of Mom and my brother—but there was something special about setting aside time to be with my father. It was therapeutic: an excuse to talk, to reflect on the day, and on recent events. Our chats about the banal—of baseball and television—often led to discussions of the serious—of politics and death, of memories and loss. Eating together was a small act, and it required very little of us—45 minutes away from our usual, quotidian distractions—and yet it was invariably one of the happiest parts of my day.

Sadly, Americans rarely eat together anymore. In fact, the average American eats one in every five meals in her car, one in four Americans eats at least one fast food meal every single day, and the majority of American families report eating a single meal together less than five days a week. It’s a pity that so many Americans are missing out on what could be meaningful time with their loved ones, but it’s even more than that. Not eating together also has quantifiably negative effects both physically and psychologically.

Read the rest of the article at The Atlantic

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Can Creativity Be Learned? — The Atlantic

Prevailing theories on creativity focus on methodology, or amount of practice. But new studies suggest artistic talent may be more hard-wired than we thought.

At 2 a.m. on June 16, 1816, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin awoke with a fright.

Mary was 18 years old and spending her summer at the Villa Diodati at Lake Geneva with her stepsister Claire Clairmont and the writers Lord Byron and John William Polidori. Her future husband, Percy Shelley, was staying nearby. They had intended to spend the summer swimming and sunbathing, but a year earlier, Mount Tambora, a massive volcano in Indonesia, had erupted, dispersing nearly 1.5 million metric tons of dust into the atmosphere, blocking the sun, and sharply decreasing temperatures worldwide. It had such devastating effects on global weather patterns that 1816 came to be known as “The Year Without a Summer.”
Although the inclement weather foiled the group’s outdoor plans, the four of them contented themselves with indoor activities and took to reading scary stories, most notably fromFantasmagoriana, a French anthology of German ghost stories.

“It proved a wet, ungenial summer, and incessant rain often confined us for days to the house,” Mary Shelley wrote, in her introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein; Or the Modern Prometheus. “But,” she added, “Some volumes of ghost stories, translated from the German into French, fell into our hands.” On the suggestion of Lord Byron a few days later, the four of them decided to try their hand at writing their own scary stories.

Read the rest of the story at The Atlantic

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The Limitless Drug — Pacific Standard

 

What if it were possible to learn any new skill like we were children?

When Alexander Arguelles was a little boy and his family lived in Italy, he spent his evenings sitting on the living room floor, listening to his father teach himself languages from old grammar books.

Arguelles moved throughout Europe, North Africa, and India as a child, but did not begin his own formal language training until age 11 when he started taking French at the end of primary school. Later, he double majored in French and German at Columbia University, where he also took courses in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit, sat in on Chinese, Russian, and Hindi courses, and taught himself Spanish outside of class by speaking with Hispanophones living in New York City. As his father had done, he endeavored to learn any language that interested him, including particularly challenging and obscure dialects such as Old Occitan, Gothic, Frisian, and Modern Provençal.

“Although I spoke only English as a child,” Arguelles later wrote, “I grew up knowing, naturally and instinctively, that the world was full of different languages and that it was possible to know numbers of them because you could teach them to yourself.”

Read the rest of the article at Pacific Standard

 

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The Romantic Power of Music — The Atlantic

 

Recent studies show that musical ability might be a sexually selected trait.

On a snowy day in Berlin, two days after Christmas 1841, Franz Liszt strode out onto the stage at the Berliner Singakademie concert hall. He sat at his grand piano in profile, beads of sweat forming on his forehead. He was 30 years old, at the height of his ability, and he was about to unleash a mania—a mania not in the sense of “Beatlemania,” or any of the other relatively mild musical obsessions, but a mania viewed as a truly contagious, dangerous medical condition that would affect women in Germany, Italy, France, Austria, and elsewhere.

Using his whole body—his undulating eyebrows, his wild arms, even his swaying hips—Liszt dove into Händel’s “Fugue in E minor” with vigor and unfettered confidence, keeping perfect tempo and playing entirely from memory. It was the start of the phenomenon later called “Lisztomania,” and the women in the audience went mad.

Read the rest of the article at The Atlantic

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Life through an Italian Lens

I’ve never been much of a photographer. I have a Nikon F from 1951, which weighs about a thousand pounds and takes half a day to load with film. I use it from time to time, but ever since the rangefinder broke, I’ve just been sticking with my iPhone camera. I’m still attached to film though, so while I get the Nikon fixed, I’ve decided to grab a few disposable cameras. On a recent trip to Italy’s Amalfi Coast, I thought it would be just the time to give one a go and the results are below. None of the photos are edited and the discoloration comes from having accidentally dropped the camera in the Mediterranean. If you’d like to read about my trip, hop over to this blog post. I’ll get that half-ton camera fixed soon, but for now, enjoy!

 

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David Hume, C.S. Lewis, and the Definition of a Miracle

It was morning in a small town in England, and a young girl was playing on a railroad track as a train approached from around a bend. The girl could not see the train nor could the train conductor see the girl, and had nature taken its course the train would have continued on for a fatal crash. But something happened. Because the driver had eaten a particularly large lunch and ostensibly had previous heart problems, his blood pressure spiked, which caused him to faint, and, because trains require the conductor to hold continuous pressure on the accelerator, when he passed out, the train came to a halt not after the bend nor long before, but just meters before it reached the playing girl. She was spared.

R.F. Holland uses this supposedly real event as an example in his article “The Miraculous,” for a 1965 edition of American Philosophical Quarterly. The question he poses is whether or not this event can be termed a miracle. I’m sure the little girl and her family deemed it so. So too did the train conductor and every passenger who became aware of why the train had stopped. Yet what constitutes a “miracle” — if there is such thing — is still hopelessly ambiguous, and based more on perspective than any sort of empirical reasoning.

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The Ultimate Paris To-Do List

It’s always a bit tricky when people ask for tips on what to do in Paris. Some are going for weekend business trips, others are planning to live there the rest of their life, and finding just the right restaurant or museum can be a bit of a chore.

I’ve culled a small, relatively respectable Paris to-do-list. Many things stay the same in the French capital (everyone should have a picnic in the Jardin du Luxembourg once in their life), but Paris is a changing city, and although some think Paris is just becoming a new New York, I’d like to think that its own unique corner bakeries, Sunday markets, and adventures that make it a city like no other. While there are always cafés popping up, new nightclubs finding their way into the trendy spotlight, unique bars and speakeasies being discovered, and foreign restauranteurs trying to make it in a city where gastronomy is king, it is possible to stay abreast of where and how to best spend your time in the French capital. But I needed some help.

So I asked local Parisians, magazine writers, expat bloggers, students, and friends, and we’ve come up with what I think is a really brilliant list. There’s always more to add, of course, so feel free to leave your favorites in the comments if it didn’t make the collection. But overall, I’m confident in saying, this is, indeed, an ultimate Paris to-do list:

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An ECT machine from the St. Audry's Hospital asylum in Suffolk, England, which closed in 1993. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

The Ethics of Erasing Bad Memories — The Atlantic

Electricity has been used in medical treatments all the way back to 46 C.E. when Scribonius Largus treated the Roman Emperor Claudius for headaches with an electric eel, a process that he recorded in his Compositiones Medicae. But it wasn’t until Sigmund Freud came along that electroshock therapy took on its more modern form.

From 1892 to 1893, Freud famously worked with Ilona Weiss (called Fraulein Elisabeth von R. by Freud), a 24-year-old from a well-to-do Hungarian family. She complained of constant fatigue and pain in her legs when walking or standing, which, naturally, Freud discovered had more to do with psychological trauma than physical illness. In his Studies on HysteriaFreud wrote about Weiss’s unusual condition, noting, “If one pressed or pinched the hyperalgesic skin and muscles of her legs, her face assumed a peculiar expression, which was one of pleasure rather than pain.” As it turned out, physical pain could bring her to orgasm.

Having diagnosed her with hysteria, for four weeks Freud treated Weiss with high-tension electric currents to her legs. After a month of no results, he changed his tune on electroshock therapy. He had once claimed it “produces admirable results” inStudies on Hysteria, but later disparaged it as a little more than a “pretense treatment.”

Read the rest of the article at The Atlantic

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The Moral Cost of Travel

It was in Paradise Lost that John Milton introduced the notion that Adam and Eve ate an apple from the Tree of Knowledge (thus explaining why your “knowledgeable” elementary school teachers may have had the infamous symbol sitting on their desks).The writers of Genesis left the forbidden fruit unspecified, but scholars have since claimed it could have been a grape, possibly a fig, even a pomegranate. Whatever it was exactly, the first Biblical book is clear that its consumption is the ultimate sin — and ever since the Western world has equated knowledge with a loss of innocence. Banned from Eden, the original sinners were also the original knowledge seekers, and the idea that understanding means corruption is widespread — oft-seen in dubiously well-known phrases like “Ignorance is bliss.”

Throughout history, innocence has been lost when new knowledge is gained, and the most common way for that to happen is by leaving home. By temporarily or permanently saying goodbye to what he knows best, the traveler willfully treks out from the light into the dark, plucking an apple from the Tree of Knowledge on his way.

The realm of the unknown is perhaps mankind’s greatest fear, but as the philosopher Spinoza said, “There can be no hope without fear, and no fear without hope.” To travel is to hope, but it is also to confront one’s fears. To stay in your tiny corner of the globe is to stay ignorant, and, indeed, it can be blissful. Yet what a warped perspective this blind contentment gives. Prejudices and naïve thoughts bask in restfulness and immobility.

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Literary power couple or eccentrics who brought each other down?

The Neurological Similarities between Successful Writers and the Mentally Ill

Knowing his wife was upset with him for spending more time with his typewriter than with her, F. Scott Fitzgerald hatched a plan. He wasn’t proud of many of his short stories (he only included 46 of his 181 short stories in his published collections), but he knew that in order to win back his wife he’d have to whip up something quickly. Working from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m., he churned out “The Camel’s Back” for The Saturday Evening Post for a fee of $500. That very morning, he bought Zelda a gift with the money he had made.

“I suppose that of all the stories I have ever written this one cost me the least travail and perhaps gave me the most amusement,” he commented in the first edition of Tales of the Jazz Age. “As to the labor involved, it was written during one day in the city of New Orleans, with the express purpose of buying a platinum and diamond wristwatch which cost six hundred dollars.”

This was in 1920, and Zelda’s frustrations could still be assuaged with a well-timed gift. (After all, it was only after Scott had the money and prestige from publishing This Side of Paradise that she agreed to marry him earlier that year.) It wasn’t long though until Zelda had grown so fed up with Scott’s drinking and self-isolation that she lashed out, cheating on him with a French naval aviator while Scott was working on The Great Gatsby in the South of France. From then on, their marriage devolved into arguments and a devastating cocktail of debt, drink, and manic depression.

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Who Said It: Hemingway or an Email from My Grandma?

 

1. “Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.”

2. “The weather is nice. The day is kind. You, my love, are lovely.”

3. “Believe in yourself and you will be set free. But freedom is a fickle thing.”

4. “I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?”

5. “A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”

6. “The table was set. The glasses were fine and the food delicious. For me though, it was too much.”

7. “In order to write about life first you must live it.”

8. “You gotta find that courage within yourself. Without it, you’re nothing.”

9. “I sat staring out the window today. Life passing me by. My memories my companion.”

10. “Why, darling, I don’t live at all when I’m not with you.”

Hemingway: 1, 4, 5, 7, 10
Grandma: 2, 3, 6, 8, 9

By Axstokes/Shutterstock

What’s Really Behind America’s Suicide Epidemic? — Pacific Standard

In the 19th-century, French researcher Emile Durkheim calculated the ideal temperature for suicide: 82 degrees Fahrenheit. It was his compatriot Albert Camus who, a half-century later, then asked not under what conditions people kill themselves, but why. “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem,” he said. “And that is suicide.”

While the science behind suicide research has certainly improved since Durkheim and Camus’ times, the quest to understand the phenomenon is still two-pronged, a question of both how and why.

What must go so wrong that someone would fight against every survival instinct, every ounce of biological drive to end their life? Why did 40,000 Americans kill themselves last year, the most in recorded history? How has—as a new study published in January by JAMA Psychiatry revealed—suicide become not only the leading cause of “injury” death in America but also the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 49, now surpassing even cancer?

Read the rest of the article at Pacific Standard.

Google Glass at a Diane von Furstenberg Show by GadgetHelpLine

Is It Possible to Degrade and Exploit Your At-Home Sexbot? — Pacific Standard

If Immanuel Kant were still around, there’s no doubt he would be pro-sexbot. The term, once defined strictly as a physical robot made for sex (think “fembot”), now also encompasses any sort of artificially intelligent (AI) software made for sexual pleasure—and they’re becoming increasingly popular. While Kant makes it clear in his writing that he believes humans are rational beings because they can choose to follow a moral law, non-rational beings are merely “objects of our inclinations.” Under these terms, sexbots are no more valuable than animals—they are “means,” not “ends,” inherently valueless, given meaning only by that which humans ascribe to them.

And yet, as sexbots become more intelligent, transitioning from dolls and one-trick robots into artificially intelligent creations, ethical lines are blurring. Is using AI software now exploitative, on par with sexual assault and rape? At what point should we declare AI sexbots sentient beings? Is there a difference between sex slavery with a human and with an AI program? What really is ethical sex?

Read the rest of the article at Pacific Standard.

Lonely or Free? By Cody Delistraty.

Loneliness or Freedom? The Existential Conflict of the Modern Expatriate

In the summer of 1951 an expatriate from New Jersey opened Le Mistral in Paris, a bookstore he named after his first French girlfriend. From the very first night 38-year-old George Whitman allowed writers, poets, artists, and bohemian travellers to sleep in his shop on a series of mattresses and towels that he’d arranged on the top floor. Slices of moonlight appeared on the ramshackle floors and the Notre Dame cast a sparkle onto the Seine just outside.

Perhaps now the most famous literary destination in France, Shakespeare & Co. – a name given to Whitman by Sylvia Beach – embodies the expatriate experience, not just as a literary pilgrimage but as a place for Anglophones to meet with one another in a city where they are accustomed to being met as foreigners. For the expatriate, life can get quite lonely. The expatriate desires camaraderie, time with people who are like her, but at the same time this is exactly what she’s running away from.

It’s a particularly odd situation because the expatriate wants both loneliness and friendship, and it’s nearly impossible to separate the feeling of isolation from the feeling of total freedom, of having escaped a set of circumstances that you were born into, and, without meditated action, would never have left.

It was Adam Gopnik in his “Paris Journal” who wrote, “The special virtue of freedom is not that it makes you richer and more powerful but that it gives you more time to understand what it means to be alive.” And yet perhaps the only way to achieve this freedom, and therefore this ability to understand what it means to be alive, is to go somewhere entirely new and foreign, a place where even the most basic actions – a trip to the grocery store or the pharmacy, ordering at a restaurant, or even negotiating the language – become deeply fascinating, trying, difficult.

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Courtesy Austin Music Therapy.

Music as Religious Experience

In 1997 Francis Spufford sat in a London café reeling after a recent fight with his wife. He felt hopeless, and, although he was a longtime Christian, he was grappling with his belief in God. How does one reconcile an omnipotent, all-good presence with such a dark world, one full of disputes and broken hearts? “I could not see any way out of sorrow that did not involve some obvious self-deception, some wishful lie about where we’d got to,” he wrote about his dilemma.

Then, a server in the café put on a cassette tape.

The novelist Richard Powers once said that Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto sounds like mercy. What this means exactly is something that’s difficult to fathom. The song is, as Spufford puts it, “patient,” and each time one listens to it the waves of the strings interceding before the clarinet takes over is a moment where the entire body begins to move with the song’s ebb and flow. The second movement, the slow section (the adagio), is the piece’s best part for it is a movement of rejoicing, and yet it is also a movement that is rather sad. The orchestra lifts the clarinet in a patient excitement, whereupon the clarinet delivers the news that this will not be a frenzied, ecstatic song, but one of truth, of pensiveness.

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Chris Hannah at the French 75 Bar at Arnaud's in New Orleans. Courtesy Arnaud's.

The Rise of the Southern Cocktail Culture

If you’re looking for another round of cosmopolitans or appletinis, this is your last call. History is repeating itself in cocktail culture, which means uninspired concoctions and drinks made just for getting drunk are quickly being replaced by pre-Prohibition-style cocktails (farewell Long Island Iced Teas!). It’s not just New York and San Francisco that are embracing artisan cocktail culture though. Recently, the South has been calling the shots and the rest of the country has simply followed along.

Take, for example, the drink of choice at the Kentucky Derby, a distinctly southern cocktail that even Mrs. Daisy Buchanan enjoyed sipping on: the Mint Julep.

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Year in Photos — 2013

A Year in Photos — 2013.

From Vogue, Vogue Italia, Cody Delistraty, FFFFound, David Lebovitz, Joseph Tyler Newell, The Sartorialist, The Fashion Spot, Elf House, Desire to Inspire, T Magazine, and No Limits. Check out other favorites here.

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The Present Benefits of Living in the Past

In Casablanca, when Rick looks Ilsa straight in the eye and tells her, “We’ll always have Paris,” the idea of nostalgia was born in popular culture. These famous words meant a perfect past was gone, but a memory would linger like a diamond ring, sparkling and forever.

Of course, depictions of nostalgia go back even farther than 1942, perhaps all the way to Odysseus, who used the memory of family and home to power through a treacherous journey. After all, the word “nostalgia” comes from the Greek “nostos” meaning a longing to return and “algos” being a general suffix denoting pain. Yet for as long as Odysseus’ journey was difficult, nostalgia has been viewed as a sort of mental illness, a disconnection from the real world, and a coping mechanism for the pathetic and melancholic.

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A homeless man on the Boulevard des Capucines in Paris. By Immigré Choisi.

The Invisible People Living among Us

“Sorry to interrupt” is how they always begin.

The most dejected of New York’s homeless population take to the city’s subway system reciting a memorized story of how they became homeless, repeating their need to eat, and, without fail, apologizing for the disruption. There are an estimated 633,000 homeless in America and millions more without proper accommodation. What they’re interrupting though is not so much the book we’re reading or the song we’re listening to, but our idea that they simply don’t exist at all. For many of us, the homeless have become ghosts we’ve trained ourselves to no longer see.

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