“I was a Western journalist traveling freely on my powerful passport, paid to document the misery of people whose passports trapped them in poverty and war.”

Three comic artists illustrate the Syrian exodus (paywalled):

In her essay “We Refugees”, Hannah Arendt wrote, “Nobody wants to know that contemporary history has created a new kind of human beings—the kind that are put into concentration camps by their foes and internment camps by their friends.” Nearly eighty years later, the world has come no closer to ensuring the rights of a human without a country. Mostly, governments propose quarantine. Internment camps grow in Tornillo, Texas, in Lesbos, in Zaatari, and in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. It won’t work. Each year, the world grows warmer. The oceans rise. Wars are fought for ever-scarcer resources. If the wealthy West worries about one million Syrians, what will it do with millions of climate refugees?"

How secondary-school history textbooks under BJP rule are compromised

It was odd, on a visit this spring to a school in the Indian state of Rajasthan, to hear a Muslim teacher, Sana Khan, ask her entirely Muslim eight-grade social science class, “Was there anything positive about Mughals?”… The textbooks’ promotion of an essentially Hindu history provides a foundation for slowly remaking India into an essentially Hindu country.

Roma (2018), dir. Alfonso Cuarón

  • I attended an advanced screening of what’s expected to be a strong awards contender. I don’t know how autobiographical it is but the movie just breathes love and gratitude. Set in 1970s Mexico City, its depiction of the relationship between a privileged middle-class family and their live-in maid and the contradictions of such a relationship I imagine would be resonant with many from the Global South.
  • I liked the Washington Post’s review but in general the mainstream takes I’ve come across are bizarrely uninteresting. In the face of an obviously intimate film depicting a complex familial dynamic, they seem to use technical observations (positive or negative) as a crutch for an inability to comment on the unfamiliar reality depicted. That’s just bad art criticism beyond just demographic underrepresentation. It reminds me of when I watched Moonlight and the group of friends I went with came out of it clearly uncomfortable and unable to offer a positive or negative opinion on anything more specific than that they “couldn’t relate to it.” Imposing some standard of relatability is such a restrictive and stupid way to experience art to me, it still pisses me just thinking about it.
  • That said, credit to Brooklyn-based Remezcla for soliciting Latino critics’ responses. One recommends the 2015 film “Que horas ela volta? (The Second Mother)” out of Brazil as a more thorough exploration of the maid-family dynamic.

On the topic of domestic staff, recommending some excellent but heartbreaking reading:

A 2015 history of Brazil

Newly updated and translated to English, rebuts prevailing views that the slave trade has not left a racist legacy akin to the United States'

The development of neural prosthetics

Especially timely for me as someone who recently completed Doc Ock’s storyline on Spider-Man on the PS4. Schwartz’s biotech falls short of Octavius’s sentient metallic limbs but to his credit, he better achieves Octavius’s original goal of helping amputees. An engrossing science and technology story here but the patient, Jan Scheuermann, quickly steals the show with her personality:

“They said, ‘You know this includes voluntary brain surgery?’ I said, ‘Yup, that’s OK. I’m going to move that robotic arm!’ They said, ‘Well, these two pedestals will stick out of your head, about three-quarters of an inch, and it will be that way until we take them out.’ and I said ‘OK, sure. I want to move that robotic arm with my mind!’”

*Protruding from the top of her head were the two pedestals: cylinders reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster, each the diameter of a quarter, and capped to prevent moisture from getting into the contact points. Scheuermann vowed to embrace them. She told herself they were instruments of exploration, and named them Lewis and Clark.**

“Then they asked me if I had a goal. I sensed they wanted me to say that I wanted to touch my children, or my husband. I said, ‘Yeah, I have a goal. I want to feed myself chocolate.’”

“I flew a plane today. I freaking flew a plane today! I am 54 years old, I’ve been a quadriplegic for 14 years, and I flew a plane today! In my mind, I’m still flying.”

Her quote to end the piece is a tear-jerker. And here’s a 60 Minutes segment on the same patient from five years ago. I admire her commitment to the Times crossword.