Thu, Feb 28, 2013
Scott Jordan Harris, The Telegraph
Many of the most popular films released this season — whether they deal with the quest undertaken by the CIA agents who hunted down Osama Bin Laden in the Middle East or the quest undertaken by Bilbo Baggins in Middle Earth— are united by one key characteristic: length. Enormous, buttock-numbing, bladder-bursting length.
It’s not simply about serving a lot of courses, it’s about balance. Yes, chefs are competitive, they want to impress, they want to stay fresh, avoid becoming bored, and in their zeal can certainly go overboard. But ultimately, a restaurant is a business, not an art museum, and the marketplace will decide whether a chef’s tasting menu succeeds or not.
Wed, Feb 27, 2013
Julia Moskin, New York Times
Curious cooks have begun hacking carbonators, the soda-making machines that are proliferating in American home kitchens. Most buyers are happy to use them for their intended purpose: turning tap water into sparkling water. But off-label, they have been used to make herb-infused sparkling wine, newfangled sangria, heady cocktails and nonalcoholic — but intoxicatingly delicious — sodas.
William Deresiewicz, The American Scholar
A decent cook can do a decent job, but great achievement still necessitates great skill. Food is molecules, not bits—which also means it can’t be digitally copied, shared, pirated, or sent across the Web. And that may be the secret of its status now.
Tue, Feb 26, 2013
Fred Guterl, Slate
Mass extinctions have happened five or six times (depending on how you count). It’s a kind of wiping the slate clean and starting anew. The death of the dinosaurs and the rise of mammals came from such an event 66 million years ago, when a meteorite fell in what is now the Yucatan. Many scientists believe that there may now be a new mass extinction event under way, caused by Homo sapiens.
Samuel Arbesman, Slate
What if technology makes scientific discoveries that we can’t understand?
Ethan Watters, Pacific Standard
Henrich had thought he would be adding a small branch to an established tree of knowledge. It turned out he was sawing at the very trunk. He began to wonder: What other certainties about “human nature” in social science research would need to be reconsidered when tested across diverse populations?
Mon, Feb 25, 2013
Philip Ball, Prospect
There’s something deeply peculiar about the way we teach children to play the violin. It’s a very difficult skill for them to master—getting their fingers under control, holding the bow properly, learning how to move it over the strings without scratching and slipping. But just as they are finally getting there, are beginning to feel confident, to hit the right notes, to sound a bit like the musicians they hear, we break the news to them: we’ve taught them to play left-handed, but now it’s time to do it like grown-ups do, the other way around.Alright, I’m fibbing. Of course we don’t teach violin that way. We wouldn’t do anything so absurd for something as important as learning an instrument, would we? No—but that’s how we teach children to write.
Sun, Feb 24, 2013
Daniel Brook, Design Observer
But for all the ideological allure of the proposals, time and again the ambitious plans were scuttled by the central authorities in Beijing. If Shanghai wanted to open up economically, its leaders would first have to reassure the Politburo that they could keep the lid on. The opportunity to prove their authoritarian credentials came with the Tiananmen Square movement of 1989.
Sat, Feb 23, 2013
Ezra Glinter, The Paris Review
A dictionary is meant to be a reflection of a language (or a prescription for it, depending on your view), but the Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary reflects an entire culture.
Ian Frazier, The New York Review Of Books
The Arctic takes you back to old-time basics, like Vulcan’s anvil and the foundation blocks of the world. In Chukotka, across the Bering Strait from Alaska, I climbed a hill and met a view of rock, sea, and sky that was, for all practical purposes, eternal. For the first time ever I had a sense of what it was to stand on a planet. That the Arctic environment is so basic and its timeline so long suggests the direness of the possibilities as the climate warms. The mess we’re making of the earth may last, as Bill McKibben put it in a recent essay, until “deep in geological time.”
Pitchaya Sudbanthad, The Morning News
Pad Thai is the most misunderstood noodle. Its best incarnations are difficult to find outside of Thailand, even as the basic ingredients are now readily available abroad.
Kate Bolick, Poetry Foundation
It isn’t easy to even think about Edna St. Vincent Millay’s body of work without also thinking about her—well—actual body.
Oliver Wainwright, The Guardian
The work of Adam Frampton, Jonathan D Solomon and Clara Wong, the book takes a systematic look at the layered topography of the city, drawing over 30 key areas in exploded axonometric diagrams to reveal the interweaving networks of pedestrian infrastructure.
Robin Robertson, The Guardian
Thu, Feb 21, 2013
Seth Abramovitch, The Hollywood Reporter
Once upon a time -- March 29, 1989, to be exact -- a 22-year-old aspiring actress named Eileen Bowman thought that all her dreams were about to come true. She was very wrong.
Adam Kirsch, New Republic
The essay as reality television.
Michael Moss, New York Times
The public and the food companies have known for decades now — or at the very least since this meeting — that sugary, salty, fatty foods are not good for us in the quantities that we consume them. So why are the diabetes and obesity and hypertension numbers still spiraling out of control?
Janet Maslin, New York Times
It turns out that the code of omertà in “The Godfather,” the “don’t ask me about my business,” was part of Chicago’s newspaper world too.
Wed, Feb 20, 2013
Andrew Gallix, The Guardian
If literature cannot be reduced to the production of books, neither can it be reduced to the production of meaning. Unreadability may even be a deliberate compositional strategy.
Cory Doctorow, Publishers Weekly
Once we demand that our computers be designed to hide things from us, we invite a world where machines stop listening to our orders, and start issuing them.
Jeanette Winterson, New Statesman
It was playful and bold to write a novel as though it were a biography, and to call a fiction a life, and to invent that life around a woman the author was in love with, and to stretch her over 400 years, like a body freed from the problems of gravity.
Duy Doan, Slate
Tue, Feb 19, 2013
June Thomas, Slate
My name is June, and I am a stationery addict.
Marlene Zuk, The Chronicle Of Higher Education
Other than simple curiosity about our ancestors, why do we care whether an adult from 4,000 years ago could drink milk without getting a stomachache? The answer is that these samples are revolutionizing our ideas about the speed at which our evolution has occurred, and this knowledge, in turn, has made us question the idea that we are stuck with ancient genes, and ancient bodies, in a modern environment.
Wayne Curtis, The Smart Set
Yet the decline also marks a more significant historic moment — we’re nearing the end of the long divorce proceedings between information and the simple act of walking.
Mon, Feb 18, 2013
Michael W. Clune, The Chronicle Of Higher Education
I doubt anyone reading this will claim never to have thought, regarding some experience, "I wish this would last forever." But most of us don't take that wish very seriously. We seem instinctively to know that it is the kind of desire that collapses under a moment's thought.
Sun, Feb 17, 2013
Oliver Chou, South China Morning Post
''Unrepentant” was a word that became prominent in China during the Cultural Revolution, when Deng Xiaoping’s adversaries labelled him an “unrepentant capitalist-roader”. But the late paramount leader spent no time in jail or in chains. Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong has perhaps more of a claim to the word; having spent almost three years in jail on an espionage charge he denies, he declares he remains unrepentant for loving his country.
J. Robert Lennon, New York Times
My secret life in rock music at last collided with my literary career during a phone call in 2003. I was talking with my editor, discussing possible avenues for publicity for my coming book, a collection of 100 very short stories. This volume’s slightness was overshadowed only by its even slighter potential for earning back its advance. The situation demanded creative thinking. It was an overseas call, and had so far cost about a third of the advance. Impulsively, I said, “I’ll record an album of 100 songs!”“Pardon me?”
Sat, Feb 16, 2013
Ian McEwan, New Republic
When the god of fiction deserts you, everything must go.
Leslie Kaufman, New York Times
Story collections, an often underappreciated literary cousin of novels, are experiencing a resurgence, driven by a proliferation of digital options that offer not only new creative opportunities but exposure and revenue as well.
Fri, Feb 15, 2013
Kevin Pang, Chicago Tribune
This is a story of the small-town kid who proved himself in the big city. Of connections forged and lost on the path to becoming the best — no matter the cost. Of closing your eyes and hoping your problems disappear.It’s a story of a chef, and what cooking gave him and what it took away.
Caleb Crain, The Nation
The news in James Lasdun’s memoir Give Me Everything You Have is that there is a new kind of bad thing in the world: persecution on the Internet by a clever, mentally unbalanced person. If you haven’t experienced it yet, you may have trouble believing how upsetting and disorienting it can be. And you may be tempted to wonder if a sufferer like Lasdun hasn’t somehow asked for it.
Betsy Morais, The Atlantic Cities
In a city, where any single person has little control over their surroundings, one’s apartment is the promised refuge of sovereignty. As it turns out, all these elements can make a tiny apartment feel less like one’s home than the hole of a hollowed out tree in a very big and hostile forest.
Thu, Feb 14, 2013
Hanna Raskin, Seattle Weekly
Flip Sum is exactly like dim sum, except that it's served both day and night, and the steam baskets lining the rolling silver carts are filled with Filipino food.
Roman Baca as told to Jonathan Wei, Village Voice
I was born in New Mexico. I grew up in Washington State. After high school, I moved back to New Mexico to go to college, and I started studying dance—ballet and jazz. After a few years, I got the chance to study ballet in a conservatory in Connecticut. Very rigorous training. I worked as a professional ballet dancer for a few years, and then, in 2000, I enlisted in the Marine Corps.
Carol Ann Duffy, The Guardian
Wed, Feb 13, 2013
Kathryn Schulz, Vulture
We need a name for them, that subset of literary protagonists who are appealing despite being appalling. I do not mean the mere anti-hero.
Bart Barnes, Washington Post
After seven decades plus of a serendipitous and fulfilling if ordinary life, I turned 75 last fall with one major goal unmet: I wanted to have a sandwich named for me.
Tue, Feb 12, 2013
Richard White, Boston Review
Not only was great wealth an aberration in Lincoln’s time, but even the idea that the accumulation of great riches was the point of a working life seemed foreign. Whereas today the most well-off frequently argue that riches are the reward of hard work, in the Civil War era, the reward was a “competency,” what the late historian Alan Dawley described as the ability to support a family and have enough in reserve to sustain it through hard times at an accustomed level of prosperity.
Todd VanDerWfrff, The A.V. Club
Rather than trying to be as kid-friendly as possible, the series made its protagonist an irascible old man. Rather than celebrating the sorts of family-friendly virtues Disney was associated with, the series was about the awesomeness of unchecked avarice and greed.
S.T. VanAirsdale, Slate
The Fresh Wars have advertisers, marketers, and chefs embroiled in a battle for the title of freshest American fast food—and for the business of an increasingly sophisticated and conscientious populace of eaters.
Stephen Greenblatt and Joseph Leo Koerner, The New York Review Of Books
With this ambition comes a set of difficult problems that may be summed up in three words: “The,” “Classical,” and “Tradition.”
Mon, Feb 11, 2013
Carol Rumens, The Guardian
Steven Schlozman, The Guardian
After years of being told how unique we are by all facets of American culture – by vampires in our movies, by evangelists in our churches, by politicians on our pedestals and advertisements on our computers – perhaps we have grown tired of the disconnect between these messages and the experience that the Registry of Motor Vehicles affords. The zombies help us to confirm our experience.
Charlotte Witt, Boston Review
Safe-surrender programs sever the connection between the child and his or her family of origin. That is what they are intended to do. The question is whether this violates the child’s rights.
Sun, Feb 10, 2013
Scott Carlson, The Chronicle Of Higher Education
People, especially young people, want to be around other people, even if they don't want to interact. The library, as someone once put it, is one of few places you can go to be alone in public.
Sat, Feb 9, 2013
Mark O'Conell, New York Times
When you read David Shields, the first thing you learn is that he takes literature very seriously. The second thing you learn is how seriously he takes his taking seriously of literature.
Michael S. Roth, Washington Post
Jim Holt likes to pursue questions — big questions. And he does so with a sincerity and light-heartedness that draw his readers along for the ride.
“Three, two, one, GO!” I yell, and Ben Mullen and Bo Steil are off, playing a game of Tetris on their NES consoles almost faster than I can follow. I have to stay focused, as I’m refereeing the match at the 2012 Classic Tetris World Championship as a volunteer. My own history with Tetris involves flop sweat and throwing the controller in frustration; now my task is to observe pairs of Tetris players as they zip through the game. It takes all of my concentration to monitor the action — and I’m not even playing.
Fri, Feb 8, 2013
Alison Flood, The Guardian
Has anyone got anything better to do with their morning than argue about the merits, or otherwise, of splitting infinitives? No? Well then, let's get cracking.
Thu, Feb 7, 2013
George T. Beech, History Today
Of greater interest is what this story reveals about Egbert’s conception of the royal office in the early ninth century: that he saw himself as the ruler of a single English people of a unified nation at a significantly earlier time than was previously thought.
Carly Lewis, The Walrus
I’m not saying that women are better writers than men, and I’m not saying all men lack the will to rise above stereotypes in their work (do you hear that, comment section?). I’m saying that something needs to change in the way literary profiles are written and the way the lives within them are handled, and that this would be a good step toward smoothing out what is currently an unbalanced gender structure in literary journalism.
George Chidi, Inc.com
When I strolled into a Talbots near closing time on a Wednesday night, I wasn't expecting Phipps Plaza in Atlanta's ritzy Buckhead neighborhood to be so dead. Perfect for me. Less so for the store manager. I entered keenly aware of how completely out of place I must have seemed--a heavyset thirtysomething black guy in Walmart dress slacks, trying to look casual while fondling Hillary Clinton-esque blouses. If I were on staff, I might have briefly considered the possibility that I had come in only to knock over the place while things were quiet.And I would have been about right.
Janet Maslin, New York Times
“The Dinner,” Herman Koch’s internationally popular novel, is an extended stunt. Mr. Koch confines his story to one fraught restaurant meal, where malice, cruelty, craziness and a deeply European malaise are very much on the menu. The four diners can leave the table occasionally, headed to the restrooms or the garden or the handy room of flashback memories. But mostly they sit and seethe at one another as a miserable night unfolds.
Wed, Feb 6, 2013
Finn Boulding, Slate
There is no adorable kid, nor plans to have one. No starter home that needs knocking into shape. I'm not just doing this temporarily until I find something meaningful to do. I’m actually a full-time homemaker ... not stay-at-home dad but stay-at-home dude. A conversational pause. Where do you mentally file this guy? Usually I just change the subject.
Tue, Feb 5, 2013
Traci Brimhall, Slate
Susanne Klingenstein, The Weekly Standard
The scientific method for comprehending the world.
Henri Cole, New Republic
Mon, Feb 4, 2013
Zadie Smith, New Yorker
Adam Gopnik, New Yorker
Although Galileo and Shakespeare were both born in 1564, just coming up on a shared four-hundred-and-fiftieth birthday, Shakespeare never wrote a play about his contemporary. (Wise man that he was, Shakespeare never wrote a play about anyone who was alive to protest.) The founder of modern science had to wait three hundred years, but when he got his play it was a good one: Bertolt Brecht’s “Galileo,” which is the most Shakespearean of modern history plays, the most vivid and densely ambivalent.
Oliver Sacks, The New York Review Of Books
I accepted that I must have forgotten or lost a great deal, but assumed that the memories I did have—especially those that were very vivid, concrete, and circumstantial—were essentially valid and reliable; and it was a shock to me when I found that some of them were not.
John WIlliams, New York Times
The most generous reaction to David Shields’s recent books would be to assume they are straight-faced parodies in the vein of those performed by Joaquin Phoenix or Andy Kaufman, sly commentaries on the culture’s already rampant solipsism. But all signs are that he’s serious.
Sun, Feb 3, 2013
David Shields, New York Times
I am not that programmer. How, then, do I continue to write? And why do I want to?
Sat, Feb 2, 2013
Robert Moor, The Paris Review
Transcontinental travel, of course, was nothing new. What amazed Kerouac was the speed and the scope—two qualities he would stylistically twin in his novel, to famous effect—that the highway system allowed. He was not alone.
Lowen Liu, Slate
It is no surprise to see aphorism alive and thriving in our current celebrity climate. The forgotten, it may be assumed, never said anything interesting, whereas choice words of the famous live forever at cocktail parties and in book reviews. To carry a portfolio of pithy quotations is to suggest you have a direct line to the minds of geniuses who came before. And it may even imply, whether or not you fulfill the promise, that you hold vast reserves of brilliance yourself.
Judith Newman, New York Times
The novel tells the story of Hildy Good, a flinty 60-ish real estate agent in a gentrifying New England coastal town where she has lived forever. Hildy believes she can tell as much about a person from one walk through their home as a therapist can from traipsing through their mind. “That’s why we all clean up before visitors come,” Ms. Leary says “We don’t want strangers to know too much about us.”
Louisa Lim, New York Times
In China, “bureaucracy lit” is a hot genre, far outselling spy stories and whodunits as the airport novel of choice. In these tales of overweening ambition, the plot devices that set readers’ pulses racing are underhanded power plays, hidden alliances and devious sexual favors.
Fri, Feb 1, 2013
Daryl Lim Wei Jie, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore
But the idea of original sin has resonance elsewhere too, in the history of nations: it gives shape, direction and impetus to history.
Christopher Shea, The Chronicle Of Higher Education
Does science have a "beauty" problem? David Orrell, a mathematician and consultant, argues that it does—or, at least, that some of its practitioners are in thrall to ideals involving "elegance," "symmetry," and "unity" that are beckoning them down false paths.