Required Reading


  • Kate Bush’s 1985 song “Running Up That Hill (Deal With God)” is making a major comeback thanks to a scene in the fourth season of the Netflix series Stranger Things. But there’s more to it, according to NPR‘s music critic Stephen Thompson:

What the “Running Up That Hill” resurgence demonstrates, beyond the timelessness and craft of the song itself, is the extreme power of familiarity. For those of us who were kids in 1985, its return evokes childhood nostalgia. But it’s not as if the song had been fully consigned to the distant past: It played a prominent role in the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics, and Meg Myers’ faithful 2019 cover has been a persistent presence in its own right. The original’s return doesn’t feel like a discovery, so much as a reminder.

The return of “Running Up That Hill” has a lot to say about the way songs help form our shared cultural language, even as we’re siloed in a thousand other ways. The barriers to entry are low with songs, which require only access to a device on which to play them; we don’t have to subscribe to Netflix, the way we do with Stranger Things, and we don’t have to pay to sit in a movie theater, the way we do with, say, Top Gun: Maverick.

Songs live on the wind in ways other forms of entertainment simply can’t.

There are many competing claims as to where the dish originates from, how the dish’s name should be spelled, whether it includes meat or not, and even whether sour cream should be included on top of the soup or not.

In recent years, its status as a Ukrainian or Russian dish has been debated ferociously on social media, leading to an intensification of what some have labelled the “borsch wars”.

In 2020, Ukraine applied to have the culture of cooking the dish added to Unesco’s list of endangered cultural heritage and the decision of adding it to the list was due to be made in 2023.

But the decision-making process was fast-tracked due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the “negative impact” on the tradition of the dish, Unesco said in a press release.

  • Actor Brad Pitt claims he suffers from prosopagnosia (also known as “face blindness”), a rare neurological disorder that makes it hard to recognize people’s faces. Apparently, it’s a real condition that can cause serious distress. Dani Blum writes for the New York Times:

Prosopagnosia varies in severity; some people with the condition may have trouble recognizing a familiar face, like a friend or family member, while others may not even be able to identify their own reflections. Some people may be unable to differentiate between faces and objects.

There’s also evidence that suggests people with prosopagnosia may become chronically anxious or depressed because of the isolation and fear that come with the condition. Navigating basic social interactions with prosopagnosia can become fraught, and some people avoid contact with family members and other loved ones out of fear that they will not be able to properly recognize or address them.

  • Not unrelated, researchers at the University of Tokyo found that being able to recognize our own voice is a “critical factor for our sense of control over our speech.” The study reads:

If people think they hear someone else’s voice when they speak, they do not strongly feel that they caused the sound. This could be a clue to understanding the experience of people who live with auditory hallucinations and could help to improve online communication and virtual reality experiences. 

  • Guerrilla Girls call out the “creeps” in gowns serving on the US Supreme Court:
  • In a fascinating essay published in Aeon, authors Kate Kirkpatrick and Sonia Kruks analyze the “OK Boomer” phenomenon through Simone de Beauvoir’s writing on the othering of old people. Here’s a short excerpt but you should read the whole thing:

In profit-driven, market societies, as Beauvoir argues, human worth is often measured in abstract, economic terms, and cost-benefit values – which judge people primarily by their utility – predominate. Such values cohere with bad faith attitudes toward the old, and they mutually reinforce each other, a tendency that is especially marked in attitudes toward the ‘boomers’. They are accused of being a privileged generation who, having feathered their nests during the period of postwar economic growth, are now unjustly devouring resources at the expense of the young. They are simplistically blamed for a variety of ills that have complex and structural causes, and have even been called ‘a generation of sociopaths’. The question of intergenerational justice is important. However, it is also important that the boomers are far too different from each other to be regarded as a monolithic social category, sociologically speaking. We should not be satisfied with false generalisations to explain the effects of large-scale socioeconomic changes that are more complex.

  • You can detest the UK’s classism and bloodstained history of imperialism, but it’s hard to deny that the British Parliament is always entertaining (this is before Boris Johnson officially resigned):
  • This week’s WTF moment: A group of Texas educators proposes to refer to slavery as “involuntary relocation” in the second-grade curriculum. Luckily, some members of the Texas State Board of Education are pushing back against the proposal, as Brian Lopez reports for the Texas Tribune:

The suggested change surfaced late during its June 15 meeting that lasted more than 12 hours. Board member Aicha Davis, a Democrat who represents Dallas and Fort Worth, brought up concerns to the board saying that wording is not a “fair representation” of the slave trade. The board, upon reading the language in the suggested curriculum, sent the working draft back for revision.

“For K-2, carefully examine the language used to describe events, specifically the term ‘involuntary relocation,’” the state board wrote in its guidance to the work group.

“I can’t say what their intention was, but that’s not going to be acceptable,” Davis told The Texas Tribune on Thursday. In 2015, Texas attracted attention when it was discovered a social studies textbook approved for use in the state called African slaves who were brought to the United States, “workers.”

  • While we’re on the topic of race: Marta Kauffman, creator of 1990s hit TV sitcom Friends, pledged $4 million to Brandeis University to repent for the show’s lack of diversity. Kauffman gave the scoop to Greg Braxton of the Los Angeles Times:

“I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years,” Kauffman said in a Zoom interview. “Admitting and accepting guilt is not easy. It’s painful looking at yourself in the mirror. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know better 25 years ago. “

The Marta F. Kauffman ’78 Professorship in African and African American Studies at the private research university will support a distinguished scholar with a concentration in the study of the peoples and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora. The gift will also assist the department to recruit more expert scholars and teachers, map long-term academic and research priorities and provide new opportunities for students to engage in interdisciplinary scholarship.

  • And finally, this week’s meme:

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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