Here is my latest for VICE NEWS.
Arkansas is one of the worst places to be a renter in America. It is the only state in the US where tenants are treated as criminals for paying rent late and landlords are not required by law to maintain their properties. Its failure-to-vacate law lets landlords give tenants a 10-day eviction notice if they are even one day overdue. Tenants who can’t or won’t leave within that span face fines for every day they remain on the property and up to 90 days in jail. This makes things difficult for the third of Arkansas’s residents who are renters and have legitimate concerns about the properties they are occupying.
The combination of failure-to-vacate and the lack of warranty of habitability make it almost impossible for tenants to challenge their landlords for legitimate reasons. It’s estimated that criminal evictions occur everyday in Arkansas, resulting in over 2000 failure-to-vacate cases being filed each year.
VICE News visited Arkansas to learn more about its draconian eviction laws. From the courthouses to the porches of some of the state’s poorest residents, we documented first-hand accounts from one of the country’s most underreported stories.
A Slob’s Guide to Critical Theory
If you decide to get any kind of arts or humanities degree at college you will probably have to read post-modern, neo-Marxist, social and literary critics who write in the kind of language that makes your head cry with pain and your body long for porn. As a breed, these people are known as critical theorists.
Now, you might be thinking, I won’t have to read these people, I’ll just read CliffsNotes. In which case, all I can say is: fair enough, you’ll probably do pretty well. There really is barely any reason to read the books, let alone the theory around them. Further education comes cheap (not literally, sadly) these days and you really don’t have to be very smart to get a humanities degree from a decent university.
But if you feel up for doing a little more work than you strictly have to, why not read some stuff that will be hard to understand and may not actually mean anything? After all, that’s what studying is about. A year after you leave school you’ll have no idea what it means but you’ll have a better, instinctive (i.e. borrowed) understanding of society and for a brief moment you’ll be able to say: “I read Roland Barthes and I sort of got where he was coming from.”
With the intellectually challenging end of the library—as with everything at most universities—it may just be best to embrace it and then look back on it with raised eyebrows. “Oh, those were the days,” you can chuckle, 40 years from now, as you come across a forgotten copy of Jay Prosser’s Second Skins: The Body Narratives of Transsexuality.
In the meantime, here are some of the characters and situations you’ll run into on your journey into the logic jungles of critical theory.
Dear Elaine wields some serious power in this world from her throne at Harvard. Scarry’s big achievement is a book called The Body in Pain, which is about different kinds of pain and how pain is inflicted. The crux of the book is that hurting someone is bad, whereas creating something (anything, unless it is painful) is good. When you do that you “make” the world, whereas when you inflict pain, you “unmake” it. So, if you relentlessly torture someone then you are not helping the world out, whereas if you write a book about why people relentlessly torture other people you are totally helping the world out. Still, she is responsible for one of the greatest pieces of Biblical analogy you’ll ever read, in which she compares the creation of God to the making of a table that can think for itself and change its form whenever the time dictates it. Could you have thought of that? No. But you might be able to turn that idea into a zingy sitcom.
A portion of Honey Guy Debooboo’s seminal text Society of the Spectacle
- student: hey government can I have some money to go to university
- uk government: sure here you go. you'll have to pay it back but only when you're earning £21,000+ a year, and if you don't pay it off after 30 years we'll just write it off, don't worry about it man
- scottish government: nah man just go to uni we ain't gonna charge you
- us government: no. you gotta pay it yourself. upfront. your parents have to save up from the moment you're born. good luck, fucker.
Cambodia competes for its first Oscar this Sunday with director Rithy Panh’s “The Missing Picture.” With help from an unconventional set of actors, the film tells the story of the four years Panh spent in labor camps during the Khmer Rouge regime.
In his powerful and imaginative documentary, nominated for best foreign language film, Panh, the country’s best-known filmmaker, enlisted about 700 clay figurines to re-create scenes from this dark period of Cambodian history, 1975 to 1979.
He first embarked on a traditional documentary but ran into a problem: There weren’t enough images of what he wanted to explore, the people and places in that time. “Most of the images in Cambodia were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge,” said Panh, speaking Thursday by phone after arriving in Los Angeles.
(Photo: Strand Releasing/Everett Collection)
A great piece by my friend spencerchumbley at VICE News.
Toxic Waste in the Windy City
Last fall, black dust began to blow through residential neighborhoods on the southeast side of Chicago. Only it wasn’t really dust; it was a fine black residue that clung to everything it touched, including noses and throats. Residents eventually learned that it was an oil byproduct called petroleum coke — petcoke for short — and it was being stored in massive uncovered piles at facilities owned by the Koch brothers. VICE News’s Danny Gold traveled to Chicago to see what happens when clouds of toxic oil dust blow through the Windy City.