Wed, Oct 31, 2012
Lewis Jones, Telegraph
A Natural History of Ghosts is not about whether ghosts exist or not – just as well, since the subject is “not much of a science” – but “about what we see… and the stories we tell”.
Oliver Wainwright, The Guardian
This rigorous application of colour and geometry, as well as that wonky penguin, hastily drawn from life at London Zoo by the office junior, put design right at the centre of the brand from the very beginning.
Lynda Mile and Michael Pye, The Atlantic
The idea was to make a high adventure film for children. The result was the box-office hit of all time. The man responsible was George Lucas.
(This article is from March 1979.)
Sun, Oct 28, 2012
Douglas Wolk, New York Times
The useful but terrible thing about growing up with geek culture is that it teaches you very early on that everything is fake. Science-fiction stories and computer games and fantasy movies build blatantly imaginary worlds that can be mapped onto the real one. But spend enough time with them and you start wondering what’s “real,” anyway, and how many of your own experiences and desires are actually a sham.
David Reiff, The National Interest
What is it about democracy promotion that drives otherwise hardheaded people to such extremes?
Fri, Oct 26, 2012
Janet Maslin, New York Times
“The Story of Ain’t” explains why Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, introduced with much fanfare in 1961, was so jam-packed with fighting words. As Mr. Skinner’s title indicates, “ain’t” became its most famously egregious entry, even though it was nothing new.
Cynthia Gorney, National Geographic Magazine
After half a century under Fidel, Cubans feel a wary sense of possibility. But this time, don’t expect a revolution.
Thu, Oct 25, 2012
Dan Buettner, New York Times
The study would try to cut through the stories and establish the facts about Ikaria’s longevity. Before including subjects, Poulain cross-referenced birth records against baptism or military documentation. After gathering all the data, he and his colleagues at the University of Athens concluded that people on Ikaria were, in fact, reaching the age of 90 at two and a half times the rate Americans do.
Wed, Oct 24, 2012
Leon Hadar, The American Conservative
We tend to celebrate foreign-policy intellectuals as thinkers who try to transform grand ideas into actual policies. In reality, their function has usually been to offer members of the foreign-policy establishment rationalizations—in the form of “grand strategies” and “doctrines,” or the occasional magazine article or op-ed—for doing what they were going to do anyway.
Leonard Mlodinow, New York Times
Healthily peppered throughout the book are answers to its subtitle, “Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don’t”: we are fooled into thinking that random patterns are meaningful; we build models that are far more sensitive to our initial assumptions than we realize; we make approximations that are cruder than we realize; we focus on what is easiest to measure rather than on what is important; we are overconfident; we build models that rely too heavily on statistics, without enough theoretical understanding; and we unconsciously let biases based on expectation or self-interest affect our analysis.
Tue, Oct 23, 2012
Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian
Who doesn't love essays? Well, plenty of you, I suppose, or Vintage wouldn't have slapped this un-optimistic price on the book. But we need them, we really do: their relationship with literature is by no means parasitical.
David Biello, Slate
The urban areas of the next 100 years will have to be both. But that’s tricky.
Ian Buruma, The New York Review Of Books
Japan is a country where the emperor is rarely seen naked.
Mon, Oct 22, 2012
Max Pemberton, Telegraph
The raw materials for a book like Goldacre’s are deathly dull. They are tiny streams of numbers and calculations; they are complex, obtuse statistical terminology; data and tables and graphs. But Goldacre has managed to achieve something marvellous here, turning them into a story everyone can get excited about. He has humanised the numbers so they become relevant. More than that, this is a book to make you enraged – properly, bone-shakingly furious – because it’s about how big business puts profits over patient welfare, allows people to die because they don’t want to disclose damning research evidence, and the tricks they play to make sure doctors do not have all the evidence when it comes to appraising whether a drug really works or not.
Dwight Garner, New York Times
“Take away this pudding,” Winston Churchill reportedly said. “It has no theme.”
I can understand Churchill’s hilarious pique. It’s how I often feel about poetry and about food writing. Both can be thin and flavorless. Both can be puddings without themes. Combine dining and verse, as has been done in a new anthology called “The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food & Drink,” and you have the potential for a perfect storm of muckiness.
Sun, Oct 21, 2012
Sam Sifton, New York Times
It looks almost as fine. It tastes exactly as excellent. That was the plan all along.
Emily Keeler, The New Inquiry
Novels are an especially apt medium for playing with and among time, and the impulse to use language as a relativity machine is strong in NW.
Douglas Wolk, New York Times
You will never be able to read “Building Stories” on a digital tablet, by design. It is a physical object, printed on wood pulp, darn it. It’s a big, sturdy box, containing 14 different “easily misplaced elements” — a hard-bound volume or two, pamphlets and leaflets of various dimensions, a monstrously huge tabloid à la century-old Sunday newspaper comics sections and a folded board of the sort that might once have come with a fancy game. In which order should one read them? Whatever, Ware shrugs, uncharacteristically relinquishing his customary absolute control. In the world of “Building Stories,” linearity leads only to decay and death.
Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post
It does not seem to me that he is consistently at the top of his form in this collection, as some of these pieces are rather perfunctory and some are dated, but it gives pleasure all the same.
Sat, Oct 20, 2012
Jascha Hoffman, New York Times
The trick to translating humor, Bellos argues in his book, “Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything,” is to abandon the idea of perfect fidelity and instead try to find a joke that rings some of the same bells as the original. By this standard, many simple punch lines, from the morbid to the absurd, are not that much harder to translate than the weather.
When complications do arise, they are usually caused by one of two tricky areas: cultural references and wordplay, according to those seasoned in the art.
Rachel Toor, The Smart Set
My trip started with a campy tourist adventure. It ended with reflection on the terror of war.
Amelia Gentleman, The Guardian
David Bailey's new collection of photographs are an affectionate tribute to an India that may not be around for much longer. But don't call him nostalgic.
Fri, Oct 19, 2012
Freeman Dyson, The New York Review Of Books
The philosophers are more interesting than the philosophy. Most of them are eccentric characters who have risen to the top of their profession. They think their deep thoughts in places of unusual beauty such as Paris and Oxford. They are heirs to an ancient tradition of academic hierarchy, in which disciples sat at the feet of sages, and sages enlightened disciples with Delphic utterances. The universities of Paris and Oxford have maintained this tradition for eight hundred years. The great world religions have maintained it even longer. Universities and religions are the most durable of human institutions.
Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
In “Back to Blood,” Tom Wolfe tries to do for Miami what he did for New York in “The Bonfire of the Vanities” and Atlanta in “A Man in Full.” The result is a soapy, gripping and sometimes glib novel that’s filled with heaps of contrivance and cartoonish antics, but that also stars two characters who attest to Mr. Wolfe’s new and improved ability to conjure fully realized people.
Daniel Kramb, The Guardian
It's the most urgent problem of our era, but novelists appear singularly reluctant to address it.
Susan Carpenter, Los Angeles Times
As in "Unfortunate Events," there are page-long digressions detailing Italian pasta recipes and a plethora of highfalutin vocabulary words, which are always defined, often in the bicker-banter of dialogue. The black, gray and blue illustrations by celebrated cartoonist Seth only add to the throwback gumshoe vibe of this outrageous, long-overdue, middle-grade follow-up series from a truly beloved narrator.
Thu, Oct 18, 2012
Lee Billings, Seed
Two rival scientific teams are locked in a high-stakes race to discover other earth-like worlds -- and forever change our own.
Ben Masters, New York Times
Above all else, language should be generous and liberating, and these writers remind us of the pure pleasure to be found in the free play and musicality of words. Their sentences sing rather than grumble or shout, and we are all the richer for them.
Alyssa Rosenberg, Slate
And Mantel does such an excellent job conjuring those men and those dynamics that I admit I'm a little jealous. I would love to see her formidable talent used toward recreating the perspectives of the women in Henry and Cromwell's orbits, a task that's been dominated by more popular, less literary, authors like Philippa Gregory. And I wish the Booker Prize would deem more stories about women's lives as great literature.
Wed, Oct 17, 2012
Dwight Garner, New York Times
Mr. Anastas’s memoir is about having and losing it all, in both literature and life, and it is so plaintive and raw that most writers (and many readers) will finish it with heart palpitations.
Tue, Oct 16, 2012
Rob Dunn, Slate
The evolutionary legacy of having been prey.
Massimo Pigliucci, Aeon
For decades the sciences and the humanities have fought for knowledge supremacy. Both sides are wrong-headed.
Daisy Dunn, Telegraph
The most interesting questions to emerge from Borzello’s book are consequently those which urge us to reconsider our position on what we would like to see in art concerned with the naked body. Are we tired of being shocked, or has the nude simply lost its ability to be subversive, even at its most naked? As Borzello’s penultimate chapter probes, ‘After Rodin, Is There Anything Left To Say?’
Sarah Holland-Batt, Slate
Mon, Oct 15, 2012
Sarah Lacy, PandoDaily
So people want to pay for long form journalism, and readers want to read it. Wow, suddenly journalism isn’t so dead, right? Not so fast. There’s still one big problem here: Who the hell is going to write all this brilliant New Yorker style prose?
Paul Halpern, Nova
Or to draw from a famous comment by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the observable universe contains “known unknowns,” such as dark matter, that could eventually be analyzed. Beyond the observable universe lie “unknown unknowns”: the subject of speculation rather than direct observation.
Sun, Oct 14, 2012
Christohper Healy, New York Times
‘Who Could That Be at This Hour?’ ” is the first chapter of “All the Wrong Questions,” a new mock-autobiographical series that recounts the almost 13-year-old Lemony’s apprenticeship with an enigmatic secret society — a prequel to “Unfortunate Events.” And while that first series worked as both a tribute to and parody of Gothic literature, this new one does the same for noir detective fiction.
Sophie Elmhirst, New Statesman
The desk at which Hilary Mantel writes is pushed up against a window with a view out to sea. The sea isn’t in the distance, spotted between hills. It’s there, almost at her doorstep, the shingle beach just across the road. To write, she sits at her computer facing the large window and the sea can fill her vision. It’s the kind of view that swallows time. There is no sign of human life; nothing except waves and clouds. On her computer desktop, Mantel has put an image: a photograph of the view from her window. “It reminds me to actually look up from the screen,” she says.
Robert Macfarlane, The Guardian
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Patrick Leigh Fermor's legendary life is that it lasted as long as it did. He died in 2011 at the age of 96, having survived enough assaults on his existence to make Rasputin seem like a quitter. He was car-bombed by communists in Greece, knifed in Bulgaria, and pursued by thousands of Wehrmacht troops across Crete after kidnapping the commander of German forces on the island. Malaria, cancer and traffic accidents failed to claim him.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012
Kristen McGuinness, Salon
When I moved to France, my inner drunk came along for the ride. Can I stay sober in a city with so much temptation?
Camille Paglia, Wall Street Journal
Capitalism has its weaknesses. But it is capitalism that ended the stranglehold of the hereditary aristocracies, raised the standard of living for most of the world and enabled the emancipation of women. The routine defamation of capitalism by armchair leftists in academe and the mainstream media has cut young artists and thinkers off from the authentic cultural energies of our time.
Thu, Oct 11, 2012
Ronald Bailey, Reason
Since scientific knowledge is still growing by a factor of ten every 50 years, it should not be surprising that lots of facts people learned in school and universities have been overturned and are now out of date. But at what rate do former facts disappear?
Steven Strogatz, New York Times
The ancient proverb about the straw that broke the camel’s back is meant as a lesson about the nature of precipitous change. It reminds us that big changes don’t necessarily require big forces. If the conditions are just right (or wrong), a tap can push a system over the brink.
In the mid-20th century, mathematicians updated this proverb by turning it into a picture, a graph of the interplay between input and output, force and response. A field known as catastrophe theory explores how slow continuous changes in the force applied to a system (like the gradually increasing load on a camel’s back) can trigger rapid discontinuous jumps in its response.
Wed, Oct 10, 2012
Oren Harman, The New Republic
Self-love makes the world go round. But, alongside cooperation, could self-love give birth to deception?
Pete Wells, New York Times
In the hands of a chef who grasps the challenges and possibilities of the form, a tasting menu can yield a succession of delights that a shorter meal could never contain.
At other times, though, the consumer of such a meal may feel as much like a victim as a guest. The reservation is hard won, the night is exhausting, the food is cold, the interruptions are frequent. The courses blur, the palate flags and the check stings.
Leigh Stein, Poetry Foundation
Tue, Oct 9, 2012
Peter Campion, Slate
Andy Bryan, McSweeney's
Moreover, no one on the committee can identify who or what instilled Dr. Jones with the belief that an archaeologist’s tool kit should consist solely of a bullwhip and a revolver.
Mon, Oct 8, 2012
Lisa Miller, New York Magazine
There comes a moment in every very ambitious person’s life when she sees with perfect clarity that the path before her is blocked. For Marissa Mayer, Google employee No. 20 and Silicon Valley’s reigning “geek queen,” this moment occurred last year, when her former boyfriend, Google co-founder Larry Page, kicked her off the company’s elite operating committee, to which she had been appointed the previous year.
Bill Keller, International Herald Tribune
"I have fought death for so long. It is such a relief to give up."
Philip Hensher, The Observer
We have surrendered our handwriting for something more mechanical, less distinctively human, less telling about ourselves and less present in our moments of the highest happiness and the deepest emotion.
Sun, Oct 7, 2012
Stephen Evans, BBC
Why should works canteens be just for the workers, and not for the rest of us?
Will Doig, Salon
Papers like the Village Voice once defined urban cool. Their time is gone -- and so is part of each city's soul.
Stacey Kors, Columbia Magazine
Paul Auster, one of America’s most enigmatic literary figures, has opened up about his life in a new memoir. Now he opens his front door.
T.A. Frank, The New Republic
A recessionary tale.
Sat, Oct 6, 2012
Anne-Marie Slaughter, New York Times
Those who forget geography can never defeat it. That is the mantra of Robert D. Kaplan’s new book.
Howard Jacobson, The Guardian
I was once told by a publisher that a novel I'd submitted "lacked redemption". I could not contain my excitement.
Katy Waldman, Slate
How Wendy’s 1980s turnaround changed the fast food business.
Fri, Oct 5, 2012
Sylvia Brownrigg, New York Times
Then Zeidner’s opening sentences — “The bride did not wear white. But the terrorist did” — throw us off course, as without further ceremony, we are plunged, like the unsuspecting guests, into a startling, near-surreal hostage situation.
Michele Pridmore-Brown, The Times Literary Supplement
Game theory enables evolutionary biologists and economists such as Seabright to think of the so-called war of the sexes as a strategic game.
Thu, Oct 4, 2012
David Deutsch, Aeon
The very laws of physics imply that artificial intelligence must be possible. What's holding us up?
Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times
Robin Sloan, a 32-year-old former Twitter manager and self-described “media inventor” from San Francisco, has established himself over the past few years as a notably nimble thinker on the future of digital culture.
But on Tuesday morning he arrived at the Grolier Club, a redoubt of rare book collectors on East 60th Street in Manhattan, prepared to talk — mostly very quickly — about the joys of old-fashioned paper and ink.
Wed, Oct 3, 2012
Chris Wright, Salon
Many view it as a virtue, or even a joke, but a spate of recent studies suggest it should be taken seriously.
Jerry Seinfeld, New York Times
Really, Neil? Really? You’re upset about too many people saying, “Really?”? I mean, really.
Tue, Oct 2, 2012
Elizabeth Bachner, Bookslut
I’ve been thinking about myself a lot -- my puffy, fragile ego, my always-dying body -- and about the other people I know, and the selves they create. I like to read theories about the self, the mind and the brain and the body and the ego, and I like to read theories about love, and I like to read theories about how and why the universe works, but ultimately my lack of a control center is clear, ultimately it’s clear at every moment that the others don’t have any control centers either.
Mon, Oct 1, 2012
David Mitchell, New York Times
Yet it soon sinks in that you’ve morphed from being the Creator to the guy who happened to write the original novel.
Julian Baggini, The Guardian
The deeper issue is that how we travel reflects and shapes the way we think, and we have become a society of airheads.