Thursday, April 24, 2014
  • It is often said that one is either a Tolstoy person or a Dostoevsky person, in the same way that one is either a cat person or a dog person. I used to want to be a Dostoevsky person, just as I wanted to be a dog person.
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  • In the most acclaimed of the operas and so-called music dramas of Richard Wagner, hefty figures from Germanic legend and myth grapple in torrid romances of mythic proportions.
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  • Before the Danes took it over, Greenland’s inhabitants have ranged from the Paleo Eskimos to the Saqaaq, the Dorset culture, the Thule.
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  • For nineteenth-century industrialists, college was seen as a great way to insure against a successful career in business. As ambitious young clerks learned the ins and outs of commerce, balancing accounts and scribbling correspondence, college students diddled away their time.
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  • She started as a pin-up, that medium of titillation most popular in the 1940s and 1950s. Marilyn spent hundreds of hours in front of the still camera
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  • An ongoing trial in Tel Aviv is set to determine who will have stewardship of several boxes of Kafka’s original writings, including primary drafts of his published works, currently stored in Zurich and Tel Aviv.
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  • In Yeskov's retelling, the wizard Gandalf is a war-monger intent on crushing the scientific and technological initiative of Mordor and its southern allies because science "destroys the harmony of the world and dries up the souls of men!"
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  • One of the reasons that self-help books are so successful is that they introduce complex thinking to people who aren't normally exposed to it, or who are made uncomfortable by it.
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  • We thought we knew everything about Roland Barthes – the way he managed to glide effortlessly across the entire French intellectual landscape, in turn embracing semiotics and dismissing it.
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  • According to Gleick, the impact of information on human affairs came in three installments: first the history, the thousands of years during which people created and exchanged information without the concept of measuring it; second the theory, first formulated by Shannon; third the flood, in which we now live.
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  • I have never been able to think that I am anything but just a non-bluffing person. I am not a scholar. I was trained in Calcutta University during those years to think on my feet but because I am not a scholar I often reinvent the wheel and then I console myself by saying that the wheel is not a bad thing to invent…
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  • When at age 4 my daughter Anna became increasingly anxious at bedtime, I tried coaxing her to sleep with the most melodious poems I knew.
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  • In October 1941, Salinger got the news that The New Yorker, which he’d been deluging with submissions, had accepted his story “Slight Rebellion Off Madison.” The story marked the debut of Holden Caulfield, although it’s told in the third person rather than in the intimate first person of “The Catcher in the Rye.”
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  • We spend so much time grappling with thought itself that we often shortchange the process of thinking. An impenetrability congeals somewhere in that interzone between the noun and verb.
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  • Sherry Turkle's new book, Alone Together, ends in mourning. In October 2009, the author, an MIT professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology, went to her local synagogue for Yiskor, the special Yom Kippur service that remembers the dead.
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  • You will enter a dim room appointed with fireplaces, silk tapestries, velvet banquettes, and damask wall hangings flecked with tiny mirrors and sequins
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  • Recently, Brigitte Derlon and Monique Jeudy-Ballini have ignored the tribes of Papua New Guinea on which they are experts in order to carry out research on the world of Parisian primitive art collectors.
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  • Nationalist teleologies often result in the erasure of significant moments and movements, because the latter do not fit within the grand narrative of the nation that tends to become the dominant version of history.
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  • It’s probably time to update the list on my Facebook profile for the books I “like.” If you think that “liking” a book is a fairly nebulous and meaningless concept, you’ll get no argument from me.
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  • Jorge Luis Borges was an eminently portable writer. He favoured various forms, but everything he produced was brief. He once claimed that his reluctance to publish novels was due to laziness, and that his works of short fiction were summaries of imagined longer works.
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  • I spend a lot of time at a pharmacy which is also a bookstore and at which a prominent scholar tells me a global ethnomusicologist to whom I have for a long time only been very scarcely connected via the Internet is, in fact, a jerk. This is a dream. I wake up and decide to write about Ara Shirinyan’s book, Your Country Is Great.
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  • Tun-huang (1959) is perhaps Inoue’s greatest novel in his greatest genre. The NYRB edition reprints in the very fine 1978 translation by Jean Oda Moy.
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  • In Leviathan Hobbes writes of 'the privilege of absurdity; to which no living creature is subject, but man only'. Nothing could be more absurd, according to Hobbes's way of thinking, than killing oneself - except perhaps killing oneself in order to kill others.
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  • “Please tell the copyeditor to leave my prose alone.” That’s an actual author request I encountered in a newly arrived manuscript. I looked at the first few pages. The content was complex, phrasing idiosyncratic, punctuation random.
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by Albert Rolls
The pun on “drugs,” in a somewhat obvious way, calls attention to and undermines the division between substances that contribute to the formation of the freak community and those prescribed by doctors, as does Pat Dubonnet’s disappointment with a career reduced to “penny-ante collars, kids under the pier dealing their moms’ downers”.
by Kristen Zipperer
There are very few Urdu writers who have written about these despondent days in Pakistan’s history, with perhaps one notable exception. Intizar Husain is a novelist and short story writer whose work takes an unrelenting look at man’s attempt and ultimate failure to keep his humanity during the post-Partition period.
by Daniel Bosch
Even before the camera slowly swings upward from her mouth to her eyes, even before we realize that those are not opaque black pits but irises, the first frames of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo have made us conscious of how a camera and a screen limit and fix visual perception — even with all their jump cuts, films concentrate better than we do. And so it is strangely a relief to fall as we do into the pupil of the eye that Hitchcock’s camera enters.
by Stephen T. Asma
In his 1790 Critique of Judgment, Kant famously predicted that there would never be a “Newton for a blade of grass.” Biology, he thought, would never be unified and reduced down to a handful of mechanical laws, as in the case of physics. This, he argued, is because we cannot expunge teleology (goal-directedness) from living systems. The question “what is it for?” applies to living structures in a way that has no corollary in physics.
by Eric Schneider
Were Philadelphia police different? In some ways, yes; in other ways, no. City police may not have exchanged their badges for the white hoods of vigilante groups, but a nearly completely white police force held the same racial prejudices of the Philadelphia neighborhoods from which they were recruited.
by Russell Bennetts
Wittgenstein certainly regarded himself as a philosopher, and certainly believed in the fundamental truth of what he was saying. So it would be a misleading oversimplification to maintain that he was “against philosophy” or against “the possibility of philosophical truth”. More accurately, what he criticized was a certain kind of philosophy – perhaps the dominant kind in the West.
by Michael B. Katz
The biological definition of poverty reinforces the idea of the undeserving poor, which is the oldest theme in post-Enlightenment poverty discourse. Its history stretches from the late eighteenth century through to the present. Poverty, in this view, results from personal failure and inferiority. Moral weaknesses – drunkenness, laziness, sexual promiscuity – constitute the most consistent markers of the undeserving poor.
by Volker M. Welter
Following a map for a driving tour along Palm Spring’s mid-twentieth century Modernist homes and buildings, I had just peeked at Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House, the rebellious sibling from 1947 of Frank Lloyds Wright’s Fallingwater House in Pennsylvania, which was begun for the same client in 1935. Figuring out on the map where to drive to next, a house whose owner was identified as Dr. Franz Alexander caught my attention.
by Albert Rolls
Consider, for example, the Pynchon anecdotes told by the television producer Deane Rink — who attended Cornell a few years after Pynchon and studied creative writing under Walter Slatoff, with whom Pynchon had also studied. Rink tells his stories as part of an early Web exercise in which he sent emails for publication to the B&R Samizdat Express at the end of 1996, when he was in McMurdo, Antarctica, to work on Live from Antarctica (1997) for PBS productions.
by Cain Todd
In an effort to be interdisciplinary, and to keep up with the current trend for all things neuroscience, I recently attended a conference in Berlin on neuroaesthetics. One of only two philosophers in the room, I found myself on the receiving end of an incredibly hostile attack after asking a question of the founding guru of the discipline, the neuroscientist Professor Semir Zeki of University College London.
by Frank R. Stockton
In the very olden time there lived a semi-barbaric king, whose ideas, though somewhat polished and sharpened by the progressiveness of distant Latin neighbors, were still large, florid, and untrammeled, as became the half of him which was barbaric. He was a man of exuberant fancy, and, withal, of an authority so irresistible that, at his will, he turned his varied fancies into facts. He was greatly given to self-communing, and, when he and himself agreed upon anything, the thing was done.
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