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Required Reading


‣ For the New Yorker, Manvir Singh takes a deep dive into Dune’s fictional language, or “conlang” (and why the Hollywood adaptation curiously erases many of its Arabic influences):

Although Peterson’s version of the Fremen language retains a vaguely Arabic sound, almost all other traces of the language have been expunged from Villeneuve’s “Dune” films. Peterson claims that this is in the name of believability. “The time depth of the Dune books makes the amount of recognizable Arabic that survived completely (and I mean COMPLETELY) impossible,” he wrote on Reddit. When a user asked him to explain, he pointed to “Beowulf,” which was written around a thousand years ago and is uninterpretable to most modern English speakers. “And we’re talking about twenty thousand years?! Not a single shred of the language should be recognizable.” Key terms like shai-hulud and Lisan al-Gaib have made it into the films, but they’re treated in Peterson’s conlang as fortuitous convergences, not ancient holdovers, as if English were to one day lose the word “sandwich” only to serendipitously re-create it thousands of years later from new etymological building blocks.

‣ Considering women’s aging and self-portraiture in the context of photographer Linda Troeller, novelist Darcey Steinke writes in LitHub:

Aging is often portrayed as a terrible tragedy for women. “In me,” Sylvia Plath wrote in her poem “Mirror” (1965), “she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman / Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.” But do we have to kill our younger selves in order to become the matriarchal goddesses we are clearly meant to be? More violent but also somehow inspirational is the story of British suffragette Mary Richardson, who in 1914, to protest the arrest of fifty-six-year-old feminist leader Emmeline Pankhurst, smuggled a cleaver into London’s National Gallery and attacked Diego Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus (1647). “I have tried to destroy the picture of the most beautiful woman in mythological history,” wrote Richardson, “as a protest against the Government for destroying Mrs. Pankhurst, who is the most beautiful character in modern history.” Her slashes in the canvas could be read as wounds or scars—either way, they aimed to destroy a man-made ideal in order to bring the young and old feminine authentically together. “Justice,” Richardson continued, “is an element of beauty as much as color and outline on canvas.”

‣ Seventy-five-year-old Wayne Pray has been incarcerated for 35 years for nonviolent drug offenses, and for Inquest, writes about the impossibility of aging with dignity in prison:

When an inmate is prepared for surgery, they are still shackled—waist, hands, and legs. This is done regardless of their condition or their age. I need you, in other words, to imagine a hospital of elderly grandfathers and grandmothers, shackled to their beds. Now imagine this repeated throughout the country in the numerous medical facilities required to care for the prison system’s aging population.

Shackling is particularly horrible for elderly inmates. For many, it is already a challenge merely to walk. After decades of poor or nonexistent medical care, many are now in the hospital because they have joints that are to the point of being just bone on bone. They live in a constant state of excruciating pain. And as they await joint replacement surgery, they are shackled. They can often barely move—but they are shackled. Seventy, eighty, even ninety years old, the sentiment seems to be: If you wanted to be treated gingerly, then you shouldn’t have come to prison.

‣ Artist Nayana LaFond’s series of over 100 portraits is bringing attention to the missing and murdered Indigenous women who are routinely ignored by mainstream media, Sherell Barbee reports for In These Times:

“[This project] was never intended to be a project at all,” LaFond says. What was initially meant to just be one painting in support of MMIW (“Lauraina in RED”) became a second (“Natahne & Yana”). Then: ​“The response to the second painting was even more [overwhelming] than the first, and so at that time I opened my email and messenger to anyone wanting me to paint them or their loved one for free. I did not anticipate the response I would receive, though. Over 25 messages with stories and images in the first day. It was then that I knew I had to paint them all.”

‣ The AI nightmare for a customer of Air Canada is worth listening to:

‣ As the Israeli military continues to bomb Gaza, and the US drops paltry meal packages while failing to call for a ceasefire, Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha reflects on food and family in the New Yorker:

It is difficult to find maftoul in Egypt, and Leila’s was good. I felt lucky to taste it with my wife and kids. But, lately, hearing about unprecedented starvation in Gaza, I have felt a sort of hatred for the food in front of me. As I eat simple meals of chicken, rice, salad, and olives with my family, I think of the hunger in my homeland, and of all the people with whom I want to share my meals. I yearn to return to Gaza, sit at the kitchen table with my mother and father, and make tea for my sisters. I do not need to eat. I only want to look at them again.

When I was growing up in northern Gaza, food marked our saddest and happiest occasions. You could tell that someone had died when you saw people walking in a line with trays of food balanced on their heads: bread, boiled eggs, fried potatoes and eggplant, pickles, falafel. The neighborhood came together to feed grieving families and their guests. People also delivered refreshments before and after weddings: coffee and tea in winter; soda, juice, and ice cream in summer. During the month of Ramadan, we fasted while the sun was up, so we knew how hunger felt. But, after the evening prayer, we gathered as a family for iftar, the meal that breaks the fast.

‣ Gotta love the new Terracotta army dancers in Xi’an:

‣ Why make eye contact when you can just pretend you’re on Love Is Blind?

‣ I do love a good comedic skit that plays with stereotypes:

‣ Brutal!

Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.





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