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Friday, September 30, 2011

The Importance Of Stupidity In Scientific Research

Martin A. Schwartz, Journal Of Cell Science

One of the beautiful things about science is that it allows us to bumble along, getting it wrong time after time, and feel perfectly fine as long as we learn something each time.

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Maureen Dowd knew what she was doing. In quoting my own line against me, she wrote: "Karma's a Fury." Yes it is. Karma, the dictionary informs me, "refers to the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences." Yes it does.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


David Dominguez, Poetry Foundation

Mom’s A Drunk, Dad’s A Writer: A Recipe For Disaster And A Memoir

Janet Maslin, New York Times

As its title indicates, “Fiction Ruined My Family” adds a literary aspect to these standard-issue ingredients.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How To Hatch A Dinosaur

Thomas Hayden, Wired

What we’re trying to do is take our chicken, modify it, and make a chickensaurus.

Chicken’s Attraction Is Truly Skin Deep


Nate Gutierrez, the chef and owner of Nate’s Taco Truck and Nate’s Taco Truck Stop in Richmond, Va., could not stop snacking on the skin left over from his roast chickens. So about six months ago, he decided to make the skin crisp on the flattop and offer it in a taco. The chicken-skin tacos sell out whenever they are on the menu.

Flick Chicks

Mindy Kaling, The New Yorker

I am always surprised at what movie studios think people will want to see. I’m even more surprised at how often they are correct.

The Dead Roads

DW Wilson, The Guardian

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Lottery

Edward Hirsch, Slate

Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?

Mark Bittman, New York Times

In general, despite extensive government subsidies, hyperprocessed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Tyranny Of Modern Time

Adam Frank, NPR

The baseline crisis we must understand and confront is not one of economics, climate change, resource depletion or alternate-reality Republicans. Below them all is a crisis in time. Until we recognize it for what it is, we will be powerless to address the challenges surrounding us, hounding us.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Night Circus By Erin Morgenstern - Review

Claire Messud, The Guardian

I am a reader who should have hated this novel; yet I found it enchanting, and affecting, too, in spite of its sentimental ending.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Roger Ebert Show

Maureen Dowd, New York Times

Roger Ebert could be a cocksure prat.

His Morning – II

Alan Brownjohn, The Guardian

When A Dictionary Could Outrage

Geoffrey Nunberg, New York Times

“A passel of double-domes at the G. & C. Merriam Company joint in Springfield, Mass., have been confabbing and yakking for 27 years — which is not intended to infer that they have not been doing plenty work.” Thus began an editorial that appeared in The New York Times on Oct. 12, 1961, excoriating the recently published Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.

The Etiquette Of Autographs

Geoff Dyer, New York Times

A nice side effect of being invited to speak at literary festivals as a writer is that you enjoy privileged access as a reader. Writing, if you like, is the Trojan horse of reading. At the Jaipur Literature Festival in India last year, I met Steve Coll (“Ghost Wars”) and Lawrence Wright (“The Looming Tower”). What struck me — and I mean this as a compliment — was the speed with which Lawrence (to you) went from being the author of a stonking great masterpiece to just “Larry,” a guy I was hanging out with. Ditto Bobby (Roberto) Calasso. Well, that’s not quite true. I didn’t exactly hang out with Calasso and I never called him “Bobby,” but I did meet him, several times. I’d love to say I can prove it, but I can’t. That is, I didn’t get any books signed.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Is That A Fish In Your Ear? By David Bellos - Review

Michael Hofmann, The Guardian

A frolicsome cover, and a title and subtitle that perform in two different registers of cool, mask a disquisition of remarkable freshness on language, speech and translation. In short, punchy, instructive chapters that take in such things as linguistics, philosophy, dictionaries, machine translation, Bible translations, international law, the Nuremberg trials, the European Union and the rise of simultaneous interpreting ("the Soviet delegate has just made a joke"), David Bellos, Princeton professor and translator of Georges Perec, Ismail Kadare and others, makes a maximalist case for translation as perhaps the definitive human activity.

A Writer’s Voice, Now Muted But Still Lively

Janet Maslin, New York Times

And although Mr. Ebert can no longer eat or speak, for reasons that the book explains, he has grown better than ever at replaying “the jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments and memories I miss.” The book sparkles with his new, improvisatory, written version of dinner-party conversation.

Radiolab: An Appreciation

Ira Glass, Transom

I marvel at Radiolab when I hear it. I feel jealous. Its co-creators Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich have digested all the storytelling and production tricks of everyone in public radio before them, invented some slick moves of their own, and ended up creating the rarest thing you can create in any medium: a new aesthetic.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

James Schuyler In The Spotlight

Eric Ziegenhagen, Poetry Foundation

A New York School poet with a flair for the dramatic.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Rise Of "Awesome"

Robert Lane Greene, Intelligent Life

Once it had to do with awe. Now it just means "great". How did "awesome" conquer the world?

Letting Go Of Star Wars

Keith Phipps, A.V. Club

I wonder if the next generation really ought to care so much about what a Krayt dragon ought to sound like. There are books, films, and TV shows of my youth that I look forward to sharing with my daughter, but I don’t expect her to claim all, or even any, of them as her own. If she doesn’t like A Charlie Brown Christmas, I can watch it without her. (But, seriously, how could she not like that?) As for Star Wars, I have no doubt it will still be around, but maybe she won’t care about it at all. I kind of hope she doesn’t. It’s had a good long run. She should have her own imagination-colonizing pop culture. I hope she loves it as much as I loved Star Wars, and that she gets to hold onto it all her life.

The Magic Of Reality By Richard Dawkins - Review

Tim Radford, The Guardian

The intended lesson of Dawkins's book is that science tells a marvellous set of experimentally testable stories. The less direct lesson may be that we cannot stop telling ourselves fables, but at least we should learn to tell the difference.

Speed Chess

Chuck Klosterman, Grantland

On Amherst, Maine Maritime Academy, and the moving pieces of college football offenses.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Novelty Acts

Ariel Levy, New Yorker

The sexual revolutions before the sexual revolution.

Goodbye Billyburg

Spencer Short, Slate

Monday, September 19, 2011

Chat History

Rebecca Armendariz, Good

Clark and I met on the Thursday before Labor Day, August 30, 2007. I don’t know exactly when we first said I love you, but the first email exchange containing the phrase, which he casually includes before signing off, is dated October 3 of that year.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Catch In “Catch-22”

Morris Dickstein, The Daily Beast

As the sixties wore on this morality seemed ahead of its time. It was as if Heller had anticipated the carnage and miscalculations of the Vietnam War, the stealth and deceit with which the war was escalated.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Words With Strangers

Meg Wolitzer, New York Times

Playing Scrabble with a stranger — and having brief, somewhat human exchanges along the way — lets you acknowledge the greatness of this shared game, the beauty of words, and the skill it takes to see them and place them on the board (n1!). But it also lets you keep control of your time and your privacy, and satisfies that inscrutable desire for a kind of aloneness that isn’t really aloneness at all.

It’s 2 a.m. in New York City now, and I want the buzz and fizz of a quick game before sleep. In Ghana, it’s already morning, and my sometime opponent is also online and feeling better.

Translation: An Impossible Art?

David Bellos, The Guardian

When you learn French at school, two of the first words you learn are tu and vous. In English both have the same translation – "you". This may well be the first time you are made aware that a word in one language has more than one translation in another.

Denis Johnson’s Tragedy-in-the-Woods Novella

Anthony Doerr, New York Times

It’s a love story, a hermit’s story and a refashioning of age-old wolf-based folklore like “Little Red Cap.” It’s also a small masterpiece. You look up from the thing dazed, slightly changed.

The Children’s Authors Who Broke The Rules

Pamela Paul, Nw York Times

The stylistic eccentricities of Maurice Sendak, Shel Silverstein and Theodor Geisel, a k a Dr. Seuss, are so much a part of the childhood vernacular today that it’s hard to imagine their books were once considered by some to be wholly inappropriate for children.

Yet these three authors — who each have a new book coming out this month in what can only be described as a Seussian coincidence (“But, see! We are as good as you. Look! Now we have new books, too!”) — challenged the conception of what a children’s book should be. And children’s literature, happily, has never been the same.

Friday, September 16, 2011

How Whole Foods "Primes" You To Shop

Martin Lindstrom, Fast Company

Have you ever been primed? I mean has anyone ever deliberately influenced your subconscious mind and altered your perception of reality without your knowing it? Whole Foods Market, and others, are doing it to you right now.

Arguably By Christopher Hitchens – Review

Fintan O'Toole, The Guardian

A collection of essays shows the polemicist at his best and his absolute worst.

The Magicians Is Harry Potter For Grown-ups

Damien Walter, The Guardian

If you could journey to any fantasy world, which would it be? I, like many millions of others, would have to choose JRR Tolkien's Middle Earth – although, given the option, I'd divide my time between Gondor and Rivendell, and skip the guided tours of Moria and Mordor. Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians and its sequel, The Magician King, might well choose that other classic of British fantasy literature, the Narnia of CS Lewis. But without doubt, the Milllenials out there who grew up with the works of JK Rowling are at this moment gleefully shouting: HOGWARTS! HOGWARTS! HOGWARTS!

I Do Not Fear Death

Roger Ebert, Salon

I will pass away sooner than most people who read this, but that doesn't shake my sense of wonder and joy.

Hothouse Earth

Robert Kunzig, Photograph By Ira Block, National Geographic

56 million years ago a mysterious surge of carbon into the atmosphere sent global temperatures soaring. In a geologic eyeblink life was forever changed.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Cheryl Savageau, Poetry Foundation

April Bloomfield's First Trip To France

Lauren Collins, Food And Wine

Chef April Bloomfield always thought of French food as emotionless. Then she traveled to Lyon and learned that truffle soup can make you cry.

What If The Secret To Success Is Failure?

Paul Tough, New York Times

The most critical missing piece, Randolph explained as we sat in his office last fall, is character — those essential traits of mind and habit that were drilled into him at boarding school in England and that also have deep roots in American history. “Whether it’s the pioneer in the Conestoga wagon or someone coming here in the 1920s from southern Italy, there was this idea in America that if you worked hard and you showed real grit, that you could be successful,” he said. “Strangely, we’ve now forgotten that. People who have an easy time of things, who get 800s on their SAT’s, I worry that those people get feedback that everything they’re doing is great. And I think as a result, we are actually setting them up for long-term failure. When that person suddenly has to face up to a difficult moment, then I think they’re screwed, to be honest. I don’t think they’ve grown the capacities to be able to handle that.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Predators And Robots At War

Christian Caryl, The New York Review Of Books

Even as his body occupies a seat in a control room in Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, his mind is far removed, following a suspicious SUV down a desert road in Iraq or tailing Taliban fighters along a mountain ridge in Afghanistan. “I was already starting to refer to the Predator and myself as ‘I,’ even though the airplane was thousands of miles away,” Martin notes ruefully.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

City Aubade

Vanesha Pravin, Slate

Writers Who Don't Read

Buzz Poole, Salon

More and more aspiring authors aren't hitting the books. What does that say about our culture?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Evildoers And Us

Alan Wolfe, The Chronicle Of Higher Education

The problem of evil is one of our oldest intellectual conundrums. Volumes have been written attempting to define evil, to catalog its horrors, to account for its persistence, to explain its appeal, to confront its consequences. The moment we begin to ask questions about the nature of evil, however, we begin to understand how difficult it is to answer them. One way to start the discussion is to narrow the focus.

Pass The Populism

Ana Maria Spagna, Utne Reader

A potluck dinner at the edge of the civilized world.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Why Does The Female Orgasm Exist?

Tracy Clark-flory, Salon

Decades of research have failed to answer the question of why the female orgasm exists -- and two recent conflicting studies on the subject have hardly changed that. Interestingly enough, though, both focus on a theory sure to anger some women: that their ability to climax is the mere byproduct of men's orgasm, which has a clear evolutionary purpose. We may not have proof of this one way or another, but it's worth exploring the potential cultural implications.

Who's The Real Illusionist?

Penn Jillette, Wall Street Journal

Is our entire political system built on this unwilling suspension of disbelief? We don't really have a choice, so it's sure unwilling. We know somewhere in our hearts that our political saviors are not really magic, but we so want them to be. We could bust every one of them if we just broke the rules for a moment. It's all hanging by a very hard-to-see little thread.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I Am No Good At Love

Noël Coward, The Guardian

Great Digital Expectations

The Economist

To see how profoundly the book business is changing, watch the shelves. Next month IKEA will introduce a new, deeper version of its ubiquitous “BILLY” bookcase. The flat-pack furniture giant is already promoting glass doors for its bookshelves. The firm reckons customers will increasingly use them for ornaments, tchotchkes and the odd coffee-table tome—anything, that is, except books that are actually read.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Are Writers Running Out Of Titles?

John Dugdale, The Guardian

There's no copyright in titles, as Muriel Spark ruefully pointed out on discovering that Peter O'Toole had followed her in using Loitering with Intent. The sheer number of titles now layered in the collective memory makes novelty ever harder, and there is pressure from publishers for simplicity and brevity – ideally single words, since the spectacular sales of Stalingrad and Blink.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Man's Guide To A Woman's Wardrobe

Luke Leitch, More Intelligent Life

I have now spent two years embedded deep in female territory: in fashion, with a capital F. And I have started to get the hang of it. What has become clear is that fashion is to many women what sport is to many men: a pastime, a passion, a shared language, a form of self-definition, and a temporary escape from the opposite sex, all rolled into one deeply satisfying whole.

Dorling Kindersley Talks iPad, Android And Its 'Darwinian' Apps Strategy

Stuart Dredge, The Guardian

"We need to pioneer and experiment," he says. "We are making products in the knowledge that some may not succeed. The academic side of my brain is happy as can be, because this is a completely open field. But the business side of me is terrified!"

Red Leaves

Can Xue, Translated From The Chinese By Karen Gernant And Chen Zeping, Belletrista

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Clawing Back To Lobster Dominance

Jenifer B. McKim, Boston Globe

Maine takes on Canadians in processing catch.

Girl Reading By Katie Ward – Review

Joanna Briscoe, The Guardian

The book is clever, dense, informed, ambitious and accomplished, yet it could be more gripping.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Robin Becker, Slate

Quantum Minds: Why We Think Like Quarks

Mark Buchanan, New Scientist

The fuzziness and weird logic of the way particles behave applies surprisingly well to how humans think.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Restaurant 'Family' Meal

Oliver Thring, The Guardian

Whether a restaurant feeds its staff and what they're given to eat reveals much about attitudes behind the scenes.

How One Magazine Keeps Kids Engaged

Nicole Torres, Salon

An illustrated children's periodical sends out serialized postcards that tell a story.

Urbanism Needs To Move Beyond City Boundaries

Peter Steinbrueck, Crosscut

Our fractured metropolitan regions are the big problem in creating sustainable solutions for climate challenges. High-towered, dense city living is only a small part of the solution, which is to develop "ecological urbanisms."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The God Clause And The Reinsurance Industry

Brendan Greeley, BusinessWeek

The risk business can tell us a lot about catastrophes. Why don't we listen?

Corsican Summer

Linda Chase, The Guardian

Why Good Writers Aren’t Good Talkers

Mary Jo Murphy, New York Times

But in some ways Krystal is most revelatory when he writes about himself — or more particularly, about what he is not. Krystal is not a great talker. He is not a novelist. He is not a night watchman, although he once played one in a shabby Upper West Side hotel. In the two fine essays that bookend the collection, he unblinkingly examines these wouldas that were never truly couldas.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sorry, Wrong In-Box

Frank Bruni, New York Times

My friend E. just texted, two days after my text. “Didn’t see it,” she reports. “On this new phone, I can’t figure anything out.”

In this new world, neither can I.

Errol Morris Looks For The Truth In Photography

Kathryn Schulz, New York Times

One of the first things we learn in “Believing Is Seeing” is that its author, the filmmaker Errol Morris, has limited sight in one eye and lacks normal stereoscopic vision — “My fault,” he writes, for refusing to wear an eye patch after being treated for strabismus in childhood. It’s hard to think of another writer who so neatly embodies the theme of his own book. “Believing Is Seeing” is about the limitations of vision, and about the inevitable idiosyncrasies and distortions involved in the act of looking — in particular, looking at photographs.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Little History Of Philosophy By Nigel Warburton – Review

Julian Baggini, The Guardian

Nigel Warburton's elementary guide to philosophers strikes the right balance for smart children and curious adults alike.

How To Cook Perfect Minestrone Soup

Felicity Cloake, The Guardian

Given the simplicity of minestrone, the liquid element, in which all the other ingredients are cooked, is supremely important.

A Reunion With Boredom

Charles Simic, The New York Review Of Books

All of this reminded me of the days of my youth when my family, like so many others, lived in a monastic solitude when the weather was bad, since we had no television. It wasn’t in church, but on dark autumn days and winter nights that I had an inkling of what they meant when they spoke about eternity.

Tempest In An Inkpot

Graham T. Beck, The Morning News

Don’t be fooled by the hand-lettering trend in movie posters and book covers—cursive is dead. Who cares? A million angry commenters around the web who extol the virtues of loops and curls. But the traditional form has a history that’s less than precious.

By Heng-Cheong Leong