Tea With Chris: Our Lives in CIA

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Friday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Chris: Someone at a church in northern Italy found an ancient dinosaur skull lodged in the building’s walls. Maybe H. P. Lovecraft was right – about the unimaginable space gods, I mean, not the racism and fear of sexual contact.

You may assume that shambling lich Harry Reid won his U.S. Senate race in this week’s midterm election because he had the luck of facing an unelectable Tea Party lunatic. That’s half right: as this profile explains, Reid used years of cunning manipulation to ensure the Nevada Republican Party would nominate the worst, furthest-right candidate possible. The Senate Majority Leader is short on visible charisma or public speaking ability, but you don’t box for a living, as he once did, without learning about sleight-of-hand.

Margaux: On Facebook this week, I noticed an old Independent article (1995) circulating about the CIA’s extensive cold war funding of the modernists. Not much news since then, but here is the most recent, reasonable post I could find on the matter. Though really, where is the CIA when you actually need it? Like here in 2010 – where is the secret funding for the covert art project operation: “Why Can’t We All Get Along”, or the more manageable: “How We, As a Nation, Can Try to Appear Less Crazy to Europe”.

A couple in Nova Scotia won the lottery and then made my day: http://news.aol.ca/ca/article/nova-scotia-lottery-win-give-away/19703150.

Carl: Our friend Lauren Bride directed me to this Paris Review interview with Marilynne Robinson, the author of, among several (but not many!) other works, one of my favourite novels of the ’80s, Housekeeping. This passage, ostensibly part of a dialogue about religion (including a smooth-criminal takedown of Richard Dawkins et al), is more broadly a beautiful articulation of the cul-de-sacs of 20th-century modernism:

“There was a time when people felt as if structure in most forms were a constraint and they attacked it, which in a culture is like an auto-immune problem: the organism is not allowing itself the conditions of its own existence. We’re cultural creatures and meaning doesn’t simply generate itself out of thin air; it’s sustained by a cultural framework. It’s like deciding how much more interesting it would be if you had no skeleton: you could just slide under the door.”

Somehow related: I think this visualization of WikiLeaks war data is more art than it is journalism or politics. It doesn’t convey information we didn’t know, or tell a coherent story, but it does provide an emotional symbolic experience, and primarily through colour. That art doesn’t occur to anyone in the discussion thread helps explain why they all seem so frustrated.

And now for something completely different: There’s a new anthology of (Canadian-born) electronic-music pioneer Bruce Haack’s vocoder music out on Stones Throw Records, probably the most accessible collection of his work (which anticipated the likes of Kraftwerk) in existence – although it can’t compete on fun with his kids’ records like this robot-on-robot dance instruction track (“do not rust until you can move to it”).

Aside: Wouldn’t “The Announcements” be a good band name? I think so.

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