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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Things We Carry

Jocelyn Heaney, Los Angeles Review Of Books

On teaching in a community college and

the talk about higher education.

How Brooklyn Got Its Groove Back

Kay S. Hymowitz, City Journal

To understand the emergence of the new Brooklyn, it’s best to start by recalling its original heyday.

When The Chefs Come Home

Julia Moskin, New York Times

But this year, the chefs descended to our level instead. Even the global stars Ferran Adrià and Heston Blumenthal, known for adding spheres, foams and frog custard to the European culinary canon, came down to earth.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Wrathful God, Or Not, If You Buy His Book

Janet Maslin, New York Times

He hates the Ten Commandments “in exactly the same way Don McLean hates ‘American Pie.’ ” He adores the most obscure and antiquated Old Testament strictures, “for each outdated relic of an obsolete mode of living is like a child to me.” He identifies himself as “Maker of Little Green Apples; Rester of Merry Gentlemen; and Sole Knower of the Beach Boys.” He inflicted the Potato Famine on Ireland because he was angry at the potatoes. Why? “They know why.”

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Man Of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution By Keith Devlin – Review

David Bodanis, The Guardian

Fibonacci means much more to the story of modern mathematics than the number sequence that bears his name.

What Muncie Read

Anne Trubek, New York Times

As we lurch into the digital age, people are kicking up hoary generalizations about Americans and their reading habits. “No one reads anymore,” “Kids used to read ‘Hamlet,’ not ‘Twilight,’ ” “We used to have more time to read.” But these canards are based upon conjecture, anecdote and idealized views of the past. In fact, we know very little about which books Americans used to page through: the history of reading is largely circumstantial, based upon diary entries or sales figures.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Why Are Male Writers So Bad At Sex Scenes?

Rowan Pelling, The Guardian

I can only posit a theory, but I tend to blame the higher rate of mortifying sex scenes in novels by men on the nature of their fantasies.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Birth Of America’s Bastardized Cuisine

Felisa Rogers, Salon

Since that mythic first Thanksgiving, we've relied on native plants to augment dishes from the old country.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Extraordinary Syllabi Of David Foster Wallace

Katie Roiphe, Slate

What his lesson plans teach us about how to live.

Nudge Thyself

Stephen Cave, Financial Times

Economists have more to learn from the natural sciences if they are to claim a realistic model of human behavior.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Augustine’s Pears

Chard deNiord, Slate

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Cool Twists Of Language

David Bellos, The Guardian

The Oxford philosopher JL Austin once observed in a lecture that in English a double negative implied a positive meaning, whereas no language had been found in which a double positive implied a negative meaning. Another philosopher who was in the audience that day made a very simple counterclaim just by saying "yeah, yeah".

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Amid Ill And Dying Inmates, A Search For Redemption

Kurt Streeter, Los Angeles Times

Tending to the men in a prison hospice helped John Paul Madrona do penance for a terrible deed in his youth. But perhaps the work was not enough.

The Problem With Film Criticism

Charles Taylor, Dissent

My experience tells me that not only was film criticism in better shape in the print era, but good work stood a greater chance of making an impact. Only a fool would say that there’s not good work being done on the Internet. But the nature of the medium, the way it has reshaped journalism and public discourse, makes it harder for that work to matter. In its contribution to the ongoing disposability of our cultural, political, and social life, in encouraging the cultural segregation that currently disfigures democracy, the Internet has to bear a great deal of responsibility for the present derangement of American life.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

King James Bible

Adam Nicolson, Photograph By Jim Richardson, National Geographic Magazine

First printed 400 years ago, it molded the English language, buttressed the “powers that be”—one of its famous phrases—and yet enshrined a gospel of individual freedom. No other book has given more to the English-speaking world.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

So It Went: A New Biography Of Kurt Vonnegut Is A Portrait Of An Artist Who Cultivated A Scruffy Image

James Camp, The New York Observer

The novelist and master of self-marketing became an icon of the counterculture.

Picking Brand Names In China Is A Business Itself

Michael Wines, New York Times

After a hard day’s labor, your average upscale Beijinger likes nothing more than to shuck his dress shoes for a pair of Enduring and Persevering, rev up his Precious Horse and head to the pub for a tall, frosty glass of Happiness Power.

Or, if he’s a teetotaler, a bottle of Tasty Fun.

Los Angeles Is Enjoying A Hot Dog Renaissance

Jessica Gelt, Los Angeles Times

Like the burger before it, and in tandem with the current German sausage craze, the hot dog has gone gourmet, with restaurants taking it seriously enough to dream up all kinds of wild combinations.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Grapes Of Roth

Liel Leibovitz, Tablet

Philip Roth’s legacy of writerly narcissism left a generation of young novelists with the wrong idea of what makes great literature.

Learning About Work Ethic From My High School Driving Instructor

James Somers, The Atlantic

"Work ethic" seems like one of those chunks. It elicits a halo of simple images: a man hunched over a desk, staying late, furrowing his brow. The "work" part dominates. One forgets the word "ethic" is in there.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Alan The Plumber

Patrick Phillips, Slate

Oh, The Places We Could Go

Dennis Overbye, New York Times

The idea of the space program as a museum show seemed wildly and gloomily appropriate when I first heard about it. We think of museums as being for old dead things, and the space program, at least the American space program, seems ready for its own diorama as the space shuttle shuts down, the Moon landings recede into ancient history, and space science is slowly dismantled by a prairie fire of budget cutting and wild cost overruns in the few programs that are left.

Luckily we don’t have to relive that. The idea of the exhibition is to look forward 50 or 100 years, not back, said Michael Shara, the curator of the show. “We’re at a crossroads,” he said. “We have to decide what to do when we grow up. Where is the vision?”

How Much More Does A Steak Dinner Cost Today?

Brent Cox, The Awl

Maybe the broadening of the appeal of the steak dinner away from the exclusive province of sawdust and testosterone has enabled the purveyors of steak dinners to seek a more attractive profit margin. Or maybe this is a trend in restaurants in general. Or in life. But yes, your steak dinner costs more than your parents’ at your age, and more again than for your grandparents before them.

Slow Eaters Think They Are Morally Superior. But They've Lost Their Appetite For Life

Jay Rayner, The Guardian

They will claim it makes them healthier. But that's absurd.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Is Neuroscience The Death Of Free Will?

Eddy Nahmias, New York Times

Once a better notion of free will is in place, the argument can be turned on its head. Instead of showing that free will is an illusion, neuroscience and psychology can actually help us understand how it works.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rebecca Coriam: Lost At Sea

Jon Ronson, The Guardian

When Rebecca Coriam vanished from the Disney Wonder in March, hers became one of the 171 mysterious cruise ship disappearances in the past decade. So what happened?

The Newspaper That Almost Seized The Future

Michael Shapiro, Columbia Journalism Review

The San Jose Mercury News, Silicon Valley’s own daily, was poised to ride the digital whirlwind. What happened?

Friday, November 11, 2011


Steve Silberman, Fray

My father survived four more days. This was awkward, though it seems terrible to say so, because we had already scheduled a celebration of his life at his college for the following Monday. But my dad was always a punctual man.

Oops: A History

Forrest Wickman, Slate

When did we come up with a word for making mistakes?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Personality On The Page

Jessa Crispin, The Smart Set

Human histories are noble undertakings, but too often the writer gets in the way.

A Tokyo With Two Moons And Many More Puzzles

Janet Maslin, New York Times

It used to be customary, in a book of this magnitude, to explain unanswered questions and tie up loose ends. Mr. Murakami clearly rejects such petty obligations, and he leaves many of the parallels in “1Q84” cryptic and dead-ended. He perceives, and we receive, and the reception isn’t all that clear. But 925 pages go by. And somehow, to quote Mr. Murakami as he quotes Sonny and Cher, for reasons that perhaps only he understands, the beat goes on.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Conspiracy Of Hogs: The McRib As Arbitrage

Willy Staley, The Awl

Calling a fast food sandwich an arbitrage strategy is perhaps a bit of a reach—but consider how massive the chain's market influence is, and it becomes a bit more reasonable.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Big Bang

The Economist

Popular physics has enjoyed a new-found regard. Now comes a brave attempt to inject mathematics into an otherwise fashionable subject.

Flea Circus

Tomás Q. Morin, Slate

Is There Still A Best Day To Eat Out?

Rebecca Seal, The Guardian

Ten years ago if you wanted the best possible restaurant meal it was key to know when the A-team were in the kitchen and all the ingredients were fresh. Have things moved on?

The Tyranny Of Meritocracy

Megan McArdle, The Atlantic

I don't care about income inequality. I care about the absolute condition of the poor--whether they are hungry, cold, and sick.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Difference Engine: Luddite Legacy

The Economist

But here is the question: if the pace of technological progress is accelerating faster than ever, as all the evidence indicates it is, why has unemployment remained so stubbornly high—despite the rebound in business profits to record levels?

Condo At The End Of The World

Joseph L. Flatley, The Verge

A new breed of survivalist is wealthy, educated, and plans to ride out 2012 in style.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Losing It

William Ian Miller, The Chronicle Of Higher Education

The lament of an aging professor.

Blue Moon

Mimi Khalvati, The Guardian

Lionel Trilling’s Life Of The Mind

Michael Kimmage, New York Times

“Why Trilling Matters” is not simply the best book yet written on Lionel Trilling. Its subject, an austere man previously tethered to the age of Eisenhower and Kennedy, is the pretext for an invigorating magic trick. With Trilling’s help, Kirsch transforms a backward glance into a forward step.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Fiction Of Literary Friendship

Wayne Gooderham, The Guardian

Under the cover of fiction however, things are not quite so rosy. Indeed, one gets the distinct impression that scores are being settled and psychological boils are being messily lanced.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why Creative Writing Is Better With A Pen

Lee Rourke, The Guardian

Above all, though, writing longhand is a secretive pleasure. I can sit in a corner of a café unnoticed and write to my heart's content. I'm less conspicuous than the iBook brigade, cluttering up London coffee houses and pubs with their flashy technologies.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How Peet's Starbucked Itself

Ellen Cushing, East Bay Express

This is Peet's Coffee & Tea, circa 2011: successful, efficient, and, many say, losing its edge and its ethos as it continues to compete in an increasingly crowded market. Once a small business known for its relaxed vibe and killer beans, Peet's is a now a company where baristas are timed as they make drinks and dinged if they take too long; where secret shoppers watch whether employees are sticking to the corporate sales pitch; where the workforce is increasingly overworked, underpaid, burned out, and plagued by turnover. It is, in other words, a far cry from what it once was: the North Berkeley neighborhood coffee shop that brought craftsmanship and superior beans to the United States.

Why Do Authors Kill Off Their Characters?

John Sutherland, The Guardian

Harry Potter's Ron Weasley was almost killed off by JK Rowling, she has revealed. He wouldn't have been the first fictional character to go …

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

In Praise Of Memorizing Poetry—Badly

Robert Pinsky, Slate

What we learn by misremembering our favorite lines.

In Loss, A Mother Explores Dark Questions And Bright Memories

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

Ms. Didion’s heartbreaking new book, “Blue Nights,” is at once a loving portrait of Quintana and a mother’s conflicted effort to grapple with her grief through words: the medium the author has used throughout her life to try to make sense of the senseless. It is a searing inquiry into loss and a melancholy meditation on mortality and time.

A Murder In Salem

E.J. Wagner, Smithsonian

In 1830, a brutal crime in Massachusetts riveted the nation—and inspired the writings of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

By Heng-Cheong Leong