Prufrock: Selling Music for KFC in Indonesia, the AP’s Pronoun Decree, and London’s Mesmerist

Reviews and News:

U2’s producer, Steve Lillywhite, sells music for Kentucky Fried Chicken in Indonesia: “And what do the members of U2 think of his new venture? ‘They think I’m barking mad,’ he said. ‘Bono is obsessed with it. He’s always telling people: “Do you know what Lillywhite’s doing? He’s working for KFCI”‘”

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The AP’s pronoun decree: “‘Just who does they think they is?’ That’s the question that raced through the language snob community late last month. Maybe not phrased in those exact words. We was—no, we were—reacting to a bit of shoptalk from the editors of The Associated Press Stylebook. The importance and influence of The AP Stylebook extend far beyond the wire service’s own wordslingers. It is one of the last, widely cited arbiters of what’s good English and what ain’t, now that most traditional style books, such as The Elements of Style and Fowler’s Modern English Usage, have been ruled out of court by our cutting-edge grammarians as much too bossy. Revisions are made to the stylebook every year, and now, with a digital edition, even oftener than that, allowing it to absorb the innovations of our lovely, ever-living language. The big news in this year’s revision involved pronouns.”

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“Aurangzeb Alamgir, the sixth ruler of the Mughal Empire, is the most hated king in Indian history. He ruled for nearly 50 years, from 1658 until 1707, the last great imperial power in India before British colonialism. According to many, he destroyed India politically, socially and culturally.” But was he really that bad?

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Lucy Lethbridge reviews Wendy Moore’s The Mesmerist: The Society Doctor Who Held Victorian London Spellbound: “The central action of Wendy Moore’s startlingly curious book takes place over a single year at the beginning of the reign of Queen Victoria. As a contemporary journalist put it, ‘There is no chapter in the history of Medicine more astounding and bewildering than the episode of 1837–38, when for a time animal magnetism or mesmerism engrossed the attention of the Profession and the public.’ The twelve months began with the arrival in London of a French performer of acts of ‘animal magnetism’ and ended with the dramatic resignation from his post at University College Hospital of John Elliotson, the celebrated physician who made that institution a theatre for spectacular displays of human hypnotism. Along the way, Moore explores the interconnected themes of medical innovation, radical scientific journalism and the contemporary crazes for phrenology, galvanism and clairvoyance.”

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Editing Marianne Moore: The “final record Moore left of her own work—and the standard Moore edition for several decades—has been her mendaciously titled Complete Poems (1967). That collection is anything but complete, containing only just over half of the poems she actually published during her life. Perhaps more importantly, many of the poems it does contain are extensively altered versions of poems she first wrote decades earlier. Readers have needed a chronologically arranged edition of her actual complete poems, with a record of her revisions, ever since its publication. Creating one, however, is tricky.”

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Can schooling for poor students be improved? “Two approaches in particular have received wide popular attention and strong professional advocacy for addressing inequalities in K-12 education. Both are motivated by a genuine desire to make headway against racial and economic inequalities in learning and achievement, and to improve prospects for disadvantaged children. The first seeks to reduce the number of high-poverty schools, which tend to be segregated both by class and race, by dispersing students from poor families to schools with predominantly middle-class or affluent students… The second…is directed at drastically altering the character of the schools disadvantaged students attend. So-called ‘no excuses’ K-12 charter programs create a high-intensity, demanding, all-encompassing atmosphere designed to work a comprehensive improvement in poor students’ academic outcomes, as well as their outlook, habits, and behavior.”

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Essay of the Day:

In The Atlantic, Derek Thompson explains why Americans are leaving cities across the country:

“Population growth in big cities has now shrunk for five consecutive years, according to Jed Kolko, an economist and writer. While well-educated Millennials without children have concentrated in a handful of expensive liberal cities, the rest of the country is slowly fanning out to the sunny suburbs.

“It’s the revenge of the past, in a way. In the housing boom of the 1990s and 2000s, Americans moved south and west. Then the housing crash happened. For a few years, it seemed as if America might be experiencing a great rewinding, as the exurbs and ex-exurbs collapsed, and some families moved back to the largest, most prosperous cities.

“But that rewind button was really a pause key. Gas prices spiked, and then came back down. Population growth in the densest urban areas—places like Manhattan and San Francisco—has been falling each year since 2010, and it’s the sparsest suburbs that are seeing the fastest growth. In the last few years, the winners have shifted from the southwest to the southeast. Out of the ten fastest-growing large metros in 2016, seven were in the Carolinas and Florida.

“One can see glimpses of the rise of low-density suburbs even in non-housing data. On Monday, Ford’s car sales fell 24 percent in March, while F-Series pickups rose by double digits. GM’s latest sales growth was similarly driven by crossovers and trucks, not little cars. Maybe families want to live in denser areas but are being priced out, moving to the suburbs, and buying larger vehicles rather than a small car that can be parallel-parked on a crowded city block. Or maybe America suffers from a unique residential claustrophobia, where its residents naturally seek to fill out America’s bounty of land with ever-larger homes, trucks, and lawns.”

Read the rest.

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Photo: Herding cattle

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Poem: Christopher Scribner, “Ecologist’s Report”

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This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard

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