Diving into the Wreck: Notes on the Women’s March

By Natalie Coleman

In the swarming subway station at 42nd street, a woman wore rainbow leggings patterned with kitty faces. She held her poster board in a large plastic bag: “I am the daughter of a refugee. I am the American dream.” A mother held her daughter’s hand and a sign — “Respeta Mi Existencia o Espera Resistencia!” — in the other. Police lined the steps to the street, high-fiving protesters as we streamed into the street outside Grand Central Station. Scattered women wore pink knit “pussy” hats in rebellion against Trump’s vile comments about sexual assault. I wore my commemorative Barack Obama 2008 t-shirt in a feeble attempt to transport myself back to the early days of his presidency, attending his rallies with my mother and volunteering for his campaign. Continue reading

The Fourth Estate Needs a Superhero

By Benjamin Reeves

On January 20th, America inaugurated a new president. He is a plutocrat who made a mint plastering his name on buildings and shellacking everything in gold like some sort of cut-rate Midas. He is a creature of the media — a whore for attention and a brazen liar. It was theoretically amusing, in years past, when he was simply taking turns on reality TV and pretending to gossip columnists that he was his own PR agent. During the early days of the campaign, the nation was all too content to suffer this particular fool so long as he kept the campaign interesting. Never forget CBS chairman Les Moonves’ words that Trump’s campaign “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” When we all started living in his personal reality TV show — when he won — he became terrifying. Continue reading

On Firewood, Fuel, and Fake News — North Korea as a Source of Urban Legends

By Barbara Demick (prize-winning author and Los Angeles Times reporter) for the Provocations series, in conjunction with UCI’s “The Future of Truth” conference

There is something about North Korea, from the improbability of the regime’s survival to the ridiculous hairstyles of the leaders, which makes it possible to believe the most outlandish rumors. Perhaps that is why North Korea has been such fertile ground for urban legend. Continue reading

The Making of a First Novel: An Interview with Lijia Zhang

By Mengfei Chen

In 2008, Lijia Zhang published a memoir that dealt with her childhood, her experiences working in a missile factory, and her participation in marches that took place in Nanjing in the spring of 1989, while protesters in Beijing were occupying Tiananmen Square.  Titled “Socialism is Great!”: A Worker’s Memoir of the New China, it garnered strong reviews and earned the author invitations to speak at literary festivals and other events around the world.  Since then, Zhang has regularly published commentaries on cultural and political events.  Then, earlier this month, she published Lotus: A Novel, her first extended work of fiction.  Mengfei Chen, co-editor of this blog, recently caught up with Zhang by email to ask her questions relating to her new novel. Continue reading

Digging Deep for the Truth

By Héctor Tobar (prize-winning journalist and book author) for the Provocations series, in conjunction with UCI’s “The Future of Truth” conference

We write to be read. We write for readers. As writers we recognize that in a world of fakery and superficiality, there’s something sacred about the act of reading. A reader is someone who’s turned off the radio, tuned out television, and even social media. If they are in a public place, they create quietude around them. They commune with written words. With our words. Continue reading

Museum Curators and their Public

By Steve Light

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) recently re-opened after a closure of over three years for expansion and renovation. Most of the opening exhibitions consist of artworks loaned by the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection on the basis of an arrangement and agreement which resulted in the Fishers funding the museum’s expansion. I haven’t been to SFMOMA in many years. I don’t visit the Bay Area often, but when I do it is the most sparkling and invigorating artists in the region whose work I want to see, and their work tends not to be in the MOMAs and MOCAs of the world, although they certainly ought to be. Continue reading

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