Wednesday, October 07, 2015
Mary Paterson in The F Word:
Louise Orwin’s A Girl and a Gun takes a long, hard look at looking in cinema. It is a two-person show – with highly stereotyped roles named simply Him and Her – presented in a cinematic experience on stage. Multiple cameras feed three screens, which show different angles of the live event. These projections perform the alchemy of the lens, heightening the difference between the sweaty, fulsome bodies onstage and their cropped, glistening images on screen.
There is also an autocue screen embedded in the middle of the audience seating area, from which the actors read their lines and stage instructions. Sometimes the words they read are also projected behind them, at the back of the stage; sometimes audience members crane our necks to see what the actors are reading. Either way, in the small space of Camden People’s Theatre, this live reading gives the actors’ eyes a glazed-over look and mediates the live experience, creating a distance between us and them that makes me realize, with a jolt, how much of the pleasure of cinema lies in watching people who can’t watch you back.
From Kurzweil AI:
Deep (slow-wave*) sleep, which helps retain memories in the brain, may also strengthen immunological memories of encountered pathogens, German and Dutch neuroscientists propose in an Opinion article published September 29 in Trends in Neurosciences. The immune system “remembers” an encounter with a bacteria or virus by collecting fragments from the microbe to create memory T cells, which last for months or years and help the body recognize a previous infection and quickly respond. These memory T cells appear to abstract “gist information” about the pathogens, allowing memory T cells to detect new pathogens that are similar, but not identical, to previously encountered bacteria or viruses. Studies in humans have shown that long-term increases in memory T cells are associated with deep slow-wave sleep on the nights after vaccination. Taken together, the findings support the view that slow-wave sleep contributes to the formation of long-term memories of abstract, generalized information, which leads to adaptive behavioral and immunological responses.
How lack of sleep puts your body at risk
The obvious implication is that sleep deprivation could put your body at risk. “If we didn’t sleep, then the immune system might focus on the wrong parts of the pathogen,” says senior author Jan Born of the University of Tuebingen. “For example, many viruses can easily mutate some parts of their proteins to escape from immune responses. If too few antigen-recognizing cells [the cells that present the fragments to T cells] are available, then they might all be needed to fight off the pathogen. In addition to this, there is evidence that the hormones released during sleep benefit the crosstalk between antigen-presenting and antigen-recognizing cells, and some of these important hormones could be lacking without sleep.” Born says that future research should examine what information is selected during sleep for storage in long-term memory, and how this selection is achieved. This research could have important clinical implications.
Yet Another Scandal
It’s all corrupt, of course it is.
The camouflage just confirms the immutable pattern.
The boy from the outskirts,
caressed for his plasticity and powers of abstraction,
is drawn in deeper and deeper, either on Wall Street,
buffered by tall buildings, or in
the sleepy state capitols—
Dover, Tallahassee, Pierre.
Even he is dazzled by miraculous returns on the money.
What he does, though, he does not for money
(which would be sane) but
of course, of course, of course, of course
for love, for the love
his prestidigitations engender
(which is not sane).
Therefore is he choked in the coils
of his being’s enormous Ponzi scheme,
and, also, his children turn away
in shock and disrepair.
Which makes me glad
that I let the investigation proceed in a timely fashion.
I opened my offshore accounts to scrutiny.
I turned my wife in.
When the lawyers from Treasury came to my house
to pore over my dictionaries,
I made them coffee and listened to their troubles.
by Vijay Seshadri
from 3 Sections
Graywolf Press, 2013
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
Cass R. Sunstein in the New York Review of Books:
Very few economists foresaw the great recession of 2008–2009. Why not? Economists have long assumed that human beings are “rational,” but behavioral findings about human fallibility have put a lot of pressure on that assumption. People tend to be overconfident; they display unrealistic optimism; they often deal poorly with risks; they neglect the long term (“present bias”); and they dislike losses a lot more than they like equivalent gains (“loss aversion”). And until recent years, most economists have not had much to say about the problem of inequality, which seems to be getting worse.
There is a strong argument that within the economics profession, these problems are closely linked, and that they have had unfortunate effects on public policy. Most economists celebrate free markets, invoking the appealing idea of consumer sovereignty. If people are buying potato chips, candy, and beer, or making risky investments, that’s their business; they know their own values and tastes. Outsiders, and especially those who work for the government, have no right to intervene. To be sure, things are different if someone is inflicting harms on third parties. If a company is emitting air pollution, the government can legitimately respond. But otherwise, many economists tend to believe that people should fend for themselves.
It is true that companies might try to take advantage of consumers and investors, perhaps with outright lies, perhaps with subtler forms of deception, perhaps by manipulating their emotions. But from the standpoint of standard economic thinking, that’s nothing to panic about. The first line of defense is competition itself—and the market’s invisible hand.
Jonah Galeota-Sprung in The Point:
About a year ago, a strange thing happened to my roommate and me. The two of us were sharing one small room in a sort of boarding house in Harlem, full otherwise of French exchange students and travelers. We’d arranged the space symmetrically, with two beds pointing out of the left wall, a channel of dirty clothes running between them, a few steps of open space, and then two desks, both facing the right wall. Sitting at our laptops together, we felt like copilots of a comfortably junky spaceship. On the century-old fireplace between us teetered our commingled stacks of too-proudly displayed books. “It looks like a startup in here,” a housemate’s girlfriend once quipped, leaning through the door to ask for a lighter. We both cringed, but it was true, and partly my fault: I had bought a whiteboard and hung it up, though I had yet to write anything on it besides one large ellipsis: …
In most ways we were a typical pair. Him, a recent Georgia transplant, who’d come to the old cold city to write; me, a product of the green and liberal Jersey suburbs, in New York because that’s where those people go. He had a publishing internship; I had one at a health clinic. Our OkCupid profiles matched 96 percent. And, typically, we spent most of our time being confused and anxious about how we should be spending most of our time. Alone and together we fingered timeless worry-stones: What kind of job? Whence comes this surplus value? Why’s everything bad?
Erica Klarreich in Quanta:
The mathematician Terence Tao, of the University of California, Los Angeles, has presented a solution to an 80-year-old number theory problem posed by the legendary Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős. Erdős was famous for the thousands of puzzles he came up with, many of which have led to surprisingly deep mathematical discoveries. This particular problem, which came to be known as the Erdős discrepancy problem, was one of his favorites, said Ben Green, a mathematician at the University of Oxford. “He mentioned it many times over the years, particularly towards the end of his life.”
A simplified version of the problem goes like this: Imagine that you are imprisoned in a tunnel that opens out onto a precipice two paces to your left, and a pit of vipers two paces to your right. To torment you, your evil captor forces you to take a series of steps to the left and right. You need to devise a series that will allow you to avoid the hazards — if you take a step to the right, for example, you’ll want your second step to be to the left, to avoid falling off the cliff. You might try alternating right and left steps, but here’s the catch: You have to list your planned steps ahead of time, and your captor might have you take every second step on your list (starting at the second step), or every third step (starting at the third), or some other skip-counting sequence. Is there a list of steps that will keep you alive, no matter what sequence your captor chooses?
The Nobel Prize is a big deal. Want to know how I know? Because the Nobels are constantly invoked to signal the importance of other awards: The Turing Award is the “Nobel Prize of Computers,” the Pritzker Prize is the “Nobel Prize of Architecture,” and geography’s “Nobel” is named after the guy who named America after Amerigo Vespucci. In mathematics, the Abel Award and the Fields Medal compete over which is more worthy of a Nobel comparison. The Nobel Prize might as well be called the “Nobel Prize of Comparisons for Other Awards.” But how did it get this status? Like the winner of a decathlon, the Nobel Prize stands out for its superiority on a combination of factors, beginning with its unique origins, says Harriet Zuckerman, sociology professor emerita of Columbia University and author of Scientific Elite, a history of the Nobel Prizes.
From the beginning, the Nobel Prize attracted public attention in a way that no other scientific award had. It all began with a journalistic error. In 1888, a French newspaper mistakenly wrote that Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, had died. It was actually his brother, Ludvig, who had passed. But, in addition to lackluster fact checking, the paper commemorated the event with defamatory prose: “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday,” it wrote. Nobel, it is said, was crushed by the idea that he’d be remembered as a “merchant of death.” In order to regain control of his legacy, he willed his fortune to create an award that would recognize people who had made positive contributions to mankind. Alfred Nobel was a celebrity, famous not only for his destructive invention, but also his reclusiveness. His will was made public a year after his death. The surprise announcement sparked a lot of interest from the outset, says Gustav Källstrand, senior curator at the Nobel Museum. “The fact that the inventor of dynamite had entrusted his money to create a peace prize, among other things, got a lot of people interested in the prize,” he said. The Nobel also attracted a lot of attention because of its huge cash prize. Scientists had been awarded medals, money, and even titles (How about a knighthood, Sir Isaac?) since at least the early Renaissance. But none of those awards came close to the Nobel’s purse. In the early days, it was worth about 20 years of an academic salary, and was the prototypical “genius award” that allowed scholars to freely pursue their interests. The prize money also gave the public a concrete way to comprehend what were (and still are) esoteric scientific discoveries, says Källstrand, who wrote a dissertation on how the Nobel became a bridge between science and society.
Spina’s opus is the colonial epic The Confines of the Shadow, a cycle of 11 novels and short-story collections that offers a deep and singular account of the great historical fractures that preceded the establishment of Moammar El-Gadhafi’s Jamahiriya in 1977. A first installment, In Lands Overseas, containing three novels—The Young Maronite, The Marriage of Omar, and The Nocturnal Visitor—set during the Italian conquest and early occupation from 1911 to ’27, is now available from Darf in a translation by the poet André Naffis-Sahely. Two further installments focus on the brief golden age of the Italian colony, in the 1930s, and on the period of independence leading up to Gadhafi’s bloodless coup against King Idris in 1969. The Confines is a reminder, among many other things, of the radical transformations that Arab countries experienced in the 20th century—and that have continued to the present day, since Libya after Gadhafi’s fall has become a terrible new place.
In his lifetime, Spina saw more than one world end. When he realized that the establishment, development, and collapse of Italy’s Libyan colony were to be the focus of his life’s work, he began reading everything he could find on the subject. This research informs his first novel, The Young Maronite (1973), in particular. In it, we are treated to jaw-dropping quotations from Italian officials following the 1911 invasion (these have been removed from Darf’s translation—“a fairly daring choice,” writes Naffis-Sahely, intended to keep the flow of Spina’s prose unimpeded). In February 1912, Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti told the Italian Parliament, to applause: “I wish with all my heart that the world may have only colonial wars, because colonial war means the civilization of populations that would otherwise go on in barbarism.”
In interviews, Houellebecq has stated that his initial design for the novel involved a conversion to Catholicism, modeled on the one Huysmans depicts in the autobiographical Durtal novels. It is true that Islam as such takes up little room in the book, serving mainly as the counterpoint to the author’s vision of an occident in irrevocable decline. The arguments Houellebecq adduces for his pessimism are familiar to anyone who has read Bernard Lewis, Orianna Fallaci, or the authors associated with the concept of Eurabia: European institutions are weak and decrepit, their artificial values fundamentally estranged from the real issues that govern people’s lives; the Muslim population is growing while Europeans fail replace themselves; and, in the words of one of Houellebecq’s characters, anormalien possessing “almost abnormal brain power,” “whichever segment of the population has the highest birthrate, and does the best job of transmitting its values, wins.”
The archetypal Houellebecq protagonist follows one of two routes: either he fails to evolve, and his picaresque adventures become a pretext for more or less biting observations about contemporary life (Whatever, Lanzarote), or he moves from muted anguish about his lovelessness and the deplorable state of the Western world into wan, often lyrical resignation (The Elementary Particles, The Possibility of an Island). Submission is in the second camp; the narrator, whose vital possibilities were inseparable from the institutions and value systems of early 21st-century France, glimpses a possibility for a new kind of life in the serene acceptance of his society’s obsolescence and an opportune accommodation of the order destined to succeed it.
Even now, Brontë’s voice is the most compelling thing about her work: a voice as full of anger, violence and gall as passion. Harman has a lot more time for Brontë’s first novel, The Professor, than most (certainly she has more time for it than me) and she suggests that its annoying and repressed heroine, Frances Henri, gains power by staying silent: ‘This convention of not answering back allows able women a scornful superiority, flashing out in looks, in suppression of comment, withheld speech; quellingly disdainful, devastatingly critical, but always held in check.’ She concludes that ‘This pent-up power, secretly triumphant because unrealised, is the incendiary device at the heart of Jane Eyreand all Charlotte Brontë’s works.’ I’m not sure. I prefer Brontë and her heroines when they are realising their power – and even Harman later finds that Jane Eyre’s vividness and energy come from Jane’s ‘articulation of long-pent-up sorrows’.
Brontë’s stunning literary control deserted her in Shirley, which she wrote in unimaginable circumstances, beginning it before her brother and sisters died, one after another, and finishing it in the throes of grief. Throughout the novel, using the fig leaf of an androgynous narrator, Brontë interrupts the story to tell us what it means and what she thinks. At one point, dazed and bitter, she advises disappointed women to stay silent: ‘You held out your hand for an egg, and fate put into it a scorpion. Show no consternation: close your fingers firmly upon the gift; let it sting through your palm. Never mind; in time, after your hand and arm have swelled and quivered long with torture, the squeezed scorpion will die, and you will have learned the great lesson how to endure without a sob.’
Ewen Callaway and David Cyranoski in Nature:
Three scientists who developed therapies against parasitic infections have won this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The winners are: William C. Campbell, a microbiologist at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey; Satoshi Ōmura, a microbiologist at Kitasato University in Japan; and Youyou Tu, a pharmacologist at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing. In the 1970s, Campbell and Ōmura discovered a class of compounds, called avermectins, that kill parasitic roundworms that cause infections such as river blindness and lymphatic filariasis. The most potent of these was released onto the market in 1981 as the drug ivermectin. Tu, who won a Lasker prize in 2011, developed the antimalarial drug artemisinin in the late 1960s and 1970s. She is the first China-based scientist to win a science Nobel. “This certainly is fantastic news for China. We expect more to come in the future,” says Wei Yang, president of the nation’s main research-funding agency, the National Natural Science Foundation of China.
I come from people who swear without realising they’re swearing.
I come from scaffolders and plasterers and shoemakers and carers,
the type of carers paid pence per minute to visit an old lady’s house.
Some of my people have been inside a prison. Sometimes I tilt
towards them and see myself reflected back. If they were from
Yorkshire, which they’re not, but if they were, they would have been
the ones on the pickets shouting scab and throwing bricks at policemen.
I come from a line of women who get married twice. I come from
a line of women who bring up children and men who go to work.
If I knew who my people were, in the time before women
were allowed to work, they were probably the women who were
working anyway. If I knew who my people were before women
got the vote, they would not have cared about the vote. There are
many arguments among my people. Nobody likes everybody.
In the time of slavery my people would have had them if they
were the type of people who could afford them, which they
probably weren’t. In the time of casual racism, some of my people
would and will join in. Some of my people know everybody
who lives on their street. They are the type of people who will argue
with the teacher if their child has detention. The women
of my people are wolves and we talk to the moon in our sleep.
by Kim Moore
from The art of Falling
Seren Books, 2015
Monday, October 05, 2015
by Claire Chambers
Something rather different comes out of fiction by three Bengali women writers based in Britain, as compared to the male authors I examined in Banglaphone Fiction I and II. In this third and final part of the essay, I first examine Monica Ali who, in her novel Brick Lane, mostly evokes life in Britain, with only occasional and usually proleptic descriptions of Bangladesh. By contrast, Sunetra Gupta's Memories of Rain is at once intercontinental, urban, and stateless – often all within a single sentence. The final author Tahmima Anam deploys an alternative strategy again, choosing, in A Golden Age and The Good Muslim, to abjure representations of Britain altogether, in favour of a concentrated focus on the Bangladeshi nation.
‘This is another disease that afflicts us,' said the doctor. ‘I call it Going Home Syndrome. Do you know what that means?' He addressed himself to Nazneen. …
‘[W]hen they have saved enough they will get on an aeroplane and go?'
‘They don't ever really leave home. Their bodies are here but their hearts are back there. And anyway, look how they live: just recreating the villages here. … But they will never save enough to go back. … Every year they think, just one more year. But whatever they save, it's never enough.'
‘We would not need very much,' said Nazneen. Both men looked at her. She spoke to her plate.
No text exemplifies more clearly the contrast between the England-returned and the myth of return migrants that I discuss elsewhere than Brick Lane. The above quotation illustrates what the medical man Dr Azad calls ‘Going Home Syndrome', a disease that he claims afflicts Bangladeshi migrants. This links with a strand in the novel about the migrant's sense of being out of place, which can lead to mental illness such as Nazneen's collapse due to ‘nervous exhaustion'. (See Esra Santesso's Disorientation for a good reading of this.)
Probably the most important means by which migrants either try to assimilate in the host country or turn away from it towards the homeland is through education. At first, Nazneen's husband Chanu imagines himself to be immune to Going Home Syndrome, and tries instead to make a life for himself in Britain. When he arrives in England, all Chanu has is the usual few pounds in his pocket, along with the significant additional item of his degree certificate. In England he undertakes classes in everything from nineteenth-century economics to cycling proficiency, and acquires further certificates. These he frames and displays on the wall of his and Nazneen's poky Tower Hamlets home, as a talisman of his hopes of promotion at work and the consequent acquisition of a comfortable life in London. Yet his dreams remain unrealized, whether because of institutional racism at his work or his own incompetence is never made clear. Chanu's aspirations then take a bitter turn towards his becoming an England-returned success story. He clings increasingly to the fantasy of returning to Dhaka in financial and social triumph. However, as sociologist Muhammad Anwar argues, this notion of return migration often proves to be a myth, especially because wives and children help men to put down roots in the new country. Nazneen and especially her young daughters Shahana and Bibi fear their father's longed-for homecoming. The rationale for going back to Dhaka is tenuously based on a saviour complex – to rescue Nazneen's sister, the vulnerable ingenue Hasina whose unwittingly alarming letters to Nazneen about sexual grooming and exploitation pepper the narrative – but the three women now have roots in Britain. They decide to stay on. Trailing clouds of defeat more than glory, the patriarch Chanu goes home on his own.
Nasreen Mohamedi. From Nasreen's Notes.
by Brooks Riley
by Sue Hubbard
Four a.m. on an October Sunday morning. It's dark and there's a chill in the air as we head towards Dover. I am joining an artist friend to visit refugees in the Calais Jungle. She is a Catholic, so we are going with a west London Catholic mission. In the back of the car is a tiny Portuguese nun, Sister Natalia, who has many years of experience working in Africa and speaks Arabic, also a young missionary nun and a Somalian school-dinner lady, who is now a British citizen. As we drive along the empty, early-morning roads Sister Natalia prays and sings.
As the sun rises I stand on the deck and watch the White Cliffs of Dover disappear and think how easy it is for me to cross this narrow strip of water and how hard it is for so many others in the world.
Sunday, October 04, 2015
Ross Andersen in The Atlantic:
Aleppo, Syria, has as good a claim as any to the title of “world’s oldest city.” It is certainly among the longest to be continuously inhabited. There are hints that nomads camped out just north of Aleppo, as early as 11,000 B.C. People used to say that Abraham had climbed its highest hill, to survey the surrounding landscape. Alexander the Great conquered Aleppo in the 4th century B.C, and made it an outpost in his empire. It would later become a hub on the Silk Road, where trade routes from Mesopotamia, China, Europe, and Egypt converged.
What is a city, if not a place of convergence? For the bulk of our existence, we humans have been wanderers, lovers of open land and sky. Cities tricked us out of this way of life. They seduced us with convergence, with hundreds, thousands, even millions of people, all living in one place. When scholars debate the site of the world’s first city, they are yearning after our cultural origins.
Recent human history can plausibly be described as a great experiment in urbanism. We used to roam, then we settled, and condensed into nodes. For thousands of years, the pace of these changes was slow, but in our current era, urbanization has accelerated. Hundreds of millions of people have moved into cities during this past century. Theirs is the largest migration in human history, and by a wide margin.
Jennifer Percy in the NYT Magazine:
Lawton arrived in Syria, was given an M-16 and in just over two weeks was participating in the offensive at Tel Hamis. ‘‘Fighting ISIS wasn’t high-profile yet,’’ he said. ‘‘Wasn’t a big deal. Easy ride to the front.’’
His nom de guerre was Heval Sharvan, but the freedom fighters called him Captain America. ‘‘I think, after this, I might want to relax and go back to work,’’ he said. ‘‘Maybe New York or maybe Miami. Well, Miami might be too chill.’’
Lawton told me about the day he killed an ISIS militant. A Kurd gave him a sniper rifle to attack an ISIS-controlled village. Lawton took a position on the roof of a building and saw an ISIS fighter with a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher running below. Lawton shot him.
‘‘The guy just exploded,’’ Lawton said. ‘‘He was just gone.’’ Lawton still had the rifle at his side, close to his body like a purse.
‘‘That was my first kill,’’ he said. ‘‘Kinda weird, but I had a nightmare that night.’’
‘‘About the militant?’’ I asked.
‘‘It’s hard to explain,’’ he said. ‘‘You know these guys are animals, but even with that knowledge … ’’ He trailed off. ‘‘You know you have to let the brain figure it out on its own,’’ he said. ‘‘He pointed the R.P.G. at me. He would have taken me and my friend. It was hard for me. Killing people, you know you are here to do it. But then, when it happens, and you see it. It’s different. He just exploded.’’
We walked together up the road toward the village. Barley fields spread for miles all around us. ‘‘A couple days later, I was good,’’ he said. ‘‘Ever since then, it’s been no problem. I just have to remember the videos.’’
He meant the videos of Foley, of the Syrian soldiers. He looked down and softened the earth with his boot. ‘‘See,’’ he said. ‘‘I have a big heart, and I never pictured myself actually doing it. I like to see the good in everybody.’’
Jedediah Purdy in The LA Review of Books:
EVERYONE I KNOW is reading, or means to read, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Elena Ferrante. These authors have very little in common, by the way such things are typically measured: they share neither genre, style, gender, race, nor nationality. What they do share is the sense of personal urgency, the hunger, they’ve created in readers. What does this response say about these writers, seemingly so different, and about all of us who have brought them together in our book bags, in mind and feeling? How have they arrested and occupied our attention?
Coates’s Between the World and Me appeals to readers’ desperation to see more clearly, feel more definitely, in a time of terrible racial violence. It resonates, too, with our doubts that justice is near, or possible, or even something much of the country wants. Ferrante’s novels — particularly her Neapolitan series, the final volume of which was just published — touch a nearer and quieter desperation. As Joanna Biggs wrote in a brilliant review essay, everyone she knows seems to have tumbled from Ferrante’s pages to some intense recollection of their own formative friendships and losses, their own most private and defining confusion and pain.
Yet in these books, both authors, seemingly knowing what readers have come asking of them, refuse to give it. They refuse on grounds that are formal, political, and, in a fashion, ethical. What joins these very different works is their refusal to be our books, to offer an easy connection, a place to rest that feels like clarity.
This is what makes the books documents of the moment. Their resistance to making connection and meaning co-exists with hunger for these. These authors argue, in their language as well as their stories and assertions, that you do not really know others, or yourself.
Max Tegmark in Nautilus:
Excuse me, but what’s the time?” I’m guessing that you, like me, are guilty of having asked this question, as if it were obvious that there is such a thing as the time. Yet you’ve probably never approached a stranger and asked “Excuse me, but what’s the place?”. If you were hopelessly lost, you’d probably instead have said something like “Excuse me, but where am I?” thereby acknowledging that you’re not asking about a property of space, but rather about a property of yourself. Similarly, when you ask for the time, you’re not really asking about a property of time, but rather about your location in time.
But that is not how we usually think about it. Our language reveals how differently we think of space and time: The first as a static stage, and the second as something flowing. Despite our intuition, however, the flow of time is an illusion. Einstein taught us that there are two equivalent ways of thinking about our physical reality: Either as a three-dimensional place called space, where things change over time, or as a four-dimensional place called spacetime that simply exists, unchanging, never created, and never destroyed.
I think of the two viewpoints as the different perspectives on reality that a frog and a bird might take. The bird surveys the landscape of reality from high “above,” akin to a physicist studying the mathematical structure of spacetime as described by the equations of physics. The frog, on the other hand, lives inside the landscape surveyed by the bird. Looking up at the moon over time, the frog sees something like the right panel in the figure, “The Moon’s Orbit”: Five snapshots of space with the Moon in different positions each time. But the bird sees an unchanging spiral shape in spacetime, as shown in the left panel.
For the bird—and the physicist—there is no objective definition of past or future. As Einstein put it, “The distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” When we think about the present, we mean the time slice through spacetime corresponding to the time when we’re having that thought. We refer to the future and past as the parts of spacetime above and below this slice.