What I've been reading, featuring how we write about other cultures, how we write about racism, how we write about climate change, and how we write about the Animorphs

When I first watched “Roma”, I wrote here: “reading the responses… revealed a homogeneity in the backgrounds of the cultural intelligentsia. In the face of an obviously intimate film in a very specific setting and depicting a complex familial dynamic, they seem to use technical observations as a crutch for their unfamiliarity—I don’t think that’s good enough.” I then linked to this collection of Latino critical responses.

But this review stands apart and is a prime example of why diversity matters. It’s not enough to make note of the hierarchy or power dynamics of the society depicted. A movie this compassionate calls for more: “Cuarón is not interested in portraying Cleo anthropologically: he wants to show us what she was to him, and to tell the story of Mexico City and what happened to Cleo the year that his own family shattered.” With the attention bestowed upon it by a Best Picture nomination, this film is too rare, important, and (above all) good to not be talked about with the specificity and insight Guillermoprieto provides.

I once interviewed a couple of dozen domestic servants about their work. It was hard to get young empleadas to talk to me, particularly if they were from the countryside… But the older women had plenty to say. A surprising number stated that they were happy with their families… But what I heard most frequently was the rage they felt at previous employers who had fired them with no warning or thought for their feelings. What about the children? they would ask. They fire us, we have to abandon them, and then you have to learn to love a new set of children, and you’re always afraid you’re going to be fired all over again and lose them. One woman cried as she explained this. “They never think about the fact that we love the children,” she said.

…That the women I interviewed could love the children they cared for—and love them, in fact, to the point of heartbreak—was to me nothing short of miraculous."

…So much happens in “Roma”. It is so bursting with life, Mexican life!… When I saw the movie in New York, the entire audience sat in silence as the credits rolled over a long, meditative shot of the staircase and the sky, until the screen blacked out over the title, and they sighed, and moved on.

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What I've been reading, featuring carbon dividends, Robert Caro's research process, and a breakthrough in non-line-of-sight imaging

"The last four people to lead the Federal Reserve, 15 former leaders of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and 27 Nobel laureates signed a letter endorsing a gradually rising carbon tax whose proceeds would be distributed to consumers as ‘carbon dividends.’"

  • With an emphasis on bipartisanship, WSJ has the statement. If paywalled, see this Bloomberg link.

  • The consensus endorsement of a rising carbon tax is not new, but to me and at least one climate economist, the dividends part was a surprise (Tyler Cowen, for one, is skeptical). He also told me he and other prominent economists had intended to also endorse the letter, but the form would not allow anyone without an American postcode to co-sign.

  • Former Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R): “This is a turning point in Republican climate policy, where the GOP economic brain trust unites behind the Baker-Shultz carbon dividends plan.”

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What I've been reading, featuring refugees illustrated, “Roma”, and neural prosthetics

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