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Sunday Reads - spinning tops, Nazis, Icelandic art, microbiomes, Greta and the social rituals of maintenance.

The return of my occasional listing of things I read on the internet and want to share with you because they made me think…

A Short Film of Spinning Tops by Charles & Ray Eames This makes me want to make films about small things.

Germany Has No Nazi Memorials - This Atlantic article compares the Southern US States prior to and during the Civil War to the Nazi regime prior to and during WWII, specifically with how the USA should deal with monuments to the losing side in the former, and it feels like part of an interesting recent trend to look at the history of what we might call regimes and states that committed atrocities comparable in some way to those of the Nazis but who got away with it. Say, for example, the British Empire. There are often calls to remove statues of figures from the Victorian era who did terrible things as agents of the state but they’re often seen as fringe extremists who hate this country. Cities such as Bristol and Liverpool who cannot easily hide their profiting from slavery have made steps in this direction but the rest of the country feels like it’s happy to ignore the legacy, even when that legacy is being weaponised to support right-wing agendas.

Death, volcanoes and Nazis in the family: Ragnar Kjartansson, wild man of Icelandic art - I like Iceland and I like art, so this coming top of the Guardian’s best art of the 21st century (most of which was thankfully not chosen by Jonathan Jones) was intriguing.

I was raised with this idea that Iceland is the end of the world. Now everyone wants to come and go on hikes. I’m scared of Icelandic nature. The older generations think nature is death here.

Caesarean babies have different gut bacteria, microbiome study finds - I am increasingly fascinating by gut bacteria (the microbiome), where it comes from and how it affects us. It feels like there are new discoveries made about it all the time, which is unusual in this era.

What a Prehistoric Monument Reveals about the Value of Maintenance - First, the revelation that the Uffington White Horse has to be maintained with new chalk. Second, the revelation that this maintenance has been going on for 3000 years, organised by local people. Third, the notion that this maintenance was by design, forcing locals to come together regularly for a communal activity. As modern societies have developed this sort of activity tends to be parcelled off to “the council”, from litter-picking to street repairs, so maybe we should reclaim some of it? It does happen, of course. The Britain in Bloom movement in the UK enables locals to clear litter and tend to plants in public spaces in return for social bonding. It’s hard to fight the “this is what our taxes should be paying for” mentality though, or the small-state ideologues using volunteer activity to further their agenda.

This is your phone on feminism - “We love our phones, but we do not trust them. And love without trust is the definition of an abusive relationship.” Feminist theory is a fantastic tool for exploring lots of things and I love this take on how we engage with technology has developed over the last decade.

Greta Thunberg and Her Hail Mary Climate Movement - There has been a LOT of noise circling around young Greta this last month with plenty more to come, and this profile felt like the fairest and calmest I’ve read about where she’s coming from and what’s happened to her. It’s also, apropos of nothing, full of some wonderful photography.

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