'We can't comprehend this much sorrow'

The official tolls are almost certainly an undercount. The morgues are overflowing. Those are the facts. But where is the grief? When we first started getting the news out of Italy, and then Spain, with frightening daily numbers comparable with what is now happening in New York, that news seemed to be delivered with holy awe. In the American papers, I usually have to do some searching to find how many people have died in the past day. The front pages here seem to often carry news of the financial markets or of the political squabbles of the day. But what I want is to be directly confronted with the fact, the enormity, the irreducible sadness of all these deaths.

19 Jun 2020 · Matthew Alampay Davis

Climate change underrepresentations; the 'productive disappointment' of the Obama era; and 'Parasite' (2019)

The choice of the name ‘game theory’ was brilliant as a marketing device. I think it’s a very tempting idea for people, that they can take something simple and apply it to situations that are very complicated, like the economic crisis or nuclear deterrence. But this is an illusion. Now my views, I have to say, are extreme compared to many of my colleagues. I believe that game theory is very interesting, I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking about it. But I don’t respect the claims that it has direct applications… If I could repeat my life, I would probably follow my unfulfilled dream to be a lawyer.

04 Nov 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis

HBO’s Chernobyl; the assassination by Patricia Lockwood of the coward John Updike; and stratified randomization

The trafficking of arms from the United States is rarely discussed as a cause of the violence people are fleeing; the drug war, she argues, is also hemispheric: it ‘begins in the Great Lakes of the northern United States and ends in the mountains of Celaque in southern Honduras’. Consumers and producers of prohibited drugs bear responsibility in each country along the route, as do the dysfunctional laws that push the trade into a violent underground. The migrant children, she writes, are more accurately described as refugees of a hemispheric war.

03 Nov 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis

The bombing of Nagasaki; Hong Kong as a failed experiment; and 'immigration as reparations'

Fuel was getting dangerously low and the hornets’ nest of defence they had stirred up below was an unacceptable risk for a plane carrying so destructive a weapon. Sweeney conferred by intercom with Beahan and the weaponeer, Lieutenant-Commander Frederick Ashworth. They decided to leave Kokura and head for Nagasaki, 160km to the south. The weather there didn’t look any more promising than Kokura, but the only other approved target, Niigata in northern Honshu, was too far away for their remaining fuel. Sweeney gathered his composure and asked the navigator, ‘Jim, give me the heading for Nagasaki.’

09 Aug 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis

White supremacy in the suffrage movement; the United States as an empire in decline; Tony Romo; and the music of 'Beale Street'

I do not believe that giving the woman the ballot is immediately going to cure all the ills of life. I do not believe that white women are dew-drops just exhaled from the skies. I think that like men they may be divided into three classes, the good, the bad, and the indifferent… Talk of giving women the ballot-box? Go on. It is a normal school, and the white women of this country need it. While there exists this brutal element in society which tramples upon the feeble and treads down the weak, I tell you that if there is any class of people who need to be lifted out of their airy nothings and selfishness, it is the white women of America.

03 Feb 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis

Robert Caro's research process and non-line-of-sight imaging

‘I didn’t know someone from Princeton could do digging like this,’ he said. ‘From now on, you do investigative work.’

27 Jan 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis

Les gilets jaunes; notes on trap music; and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Trap is a form of soft power that takes the resources of the black underclass and uses them to change the attitudes, behaviors, and preferences of others, usually by making them admit they desire and admire those same things and will pay good money to share vicariously in even a collateral showering from below. This allows the trap artist to transition from an environment where raw hard power dominates to the Valhalla of excess, lucre, influence, fame, the only sincerely valued site of belonging in our culture. It doesn’t hurt that insofar as you’re interested in having a good time, there’s probably never been a sound so perfectly suited to having every kind of fun disallowed in conservative America.

16 Dec 2018 · Matthew Alampay Davis

Reporting on the Khmer Rouge; Kemba Walker's jumpshot; and NK Jemisin's worldbuilding

I reminded myself regularly that all the adults I met were survivors or former killers, who now had to try to live with what they had seen or done. Almost everyone, survivor or killer, had lost family members. They carried around inside themselves millions of tiny worlds of suffering.

01 Dec 2018 · Matthew Alampay Davis

Monuments to chattel slavery; 'transsexuality as separatism'; and the risk of losing one's knowledge

‘Mill believed that even when you know something, defending your argument against sceptics will heighten the justification for your belief,’ Srinivasan explains. ‘I think the opposite can happen, particularly in cases where there’s deep practical disagreement coupled with power differentials.’ She gives the case of a black person who has knowledge that the cops in his town are racist in virtue of his interactions with them but, when pushed by a sceptic, is unable to counter every argument with which he is presented. Srinivasan thinks such a person is ‘at risk of losing his knowledge’, not because his evidence is defeated or he loses his justification, but because he might feel psychologically that he needs to give up his view.

13 Oct 2018 · Matthew Alampay Davis