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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Alexander Litvinenko: The Man Who Solved His Own Murder, by Luke Harding, The Guardian

The former Russian spy was poisoned with a cup of tea in a London hotel. Working with Scotland Yard detectives, as he lay dying, he traced the lethal substance to a former comrade in the Russian secret service.

The Woman Who Made Science Beautiful, by Andrea Wulf, The Atlantic

It was silkworms that first captured 13–year–old Maria Sibylla Merian’s attention. She would later graduate to a wider set of creatures, watching caterpillars, pupae, butterflies, and moths for days, weeks, and months. Paintbrush in hand, Merian recorded each stage of their life cycles, noting every change and movement. She depicted the silkworm moth from eggs, hatching larvae, molts, cocoons, all the way to adult moths. She distinguished between male and female, and showed a silkworm feeding on a mulberry leaf. Unlike many other girls her age, Merian was not disgusted by hairy crawling creatures or by tightly cocooned ‘date pits’ as she called the chrysalis. She pocked, squeezed, and prodded them to note how they ‘roll up,’ ‘twist and turn violently,’ or ‘lie there as if dead.’

Ask The Aged, by Karl Pillemer, Aeon

Who better to answer questions about the purpose of life than someone who has been living theirs for a long time?

What Do We Love About “War And Peace”?, by Louis Menand, New Yorker

When cultural goods travel, their historical baggage gets lost in transit. Is this also a problem with “War and Peace”? Tolstoy’s huge novel about Russia during the Napoleonic Wars has been adapted many times, despite the difficulty of catching the essence of a work whose essence has a lot to do with sheer scale. When the book was published, in 1869, people wondered what genre it was. There was a character named Napoleon. Was this a history or a novel? And why was it so big? It’s big because it’s both. In most historical novels, the history part is backdrop for the novel part. In “War and Peace,” like the title says, you get equal measures of each. It’s a production challenge.

Filmish By Edward Ross Review – The Seven Wonders Of The Big Screen, by Rachel Cooke, The Guardian

As anyone who has ever tried to struggle through its sacred texts will know, film theory doesn’t exactly make for easy reading. Mostly, it’ll drive you mad before it will change the way you think. So hooray for Filmish by Edward Ross, an Edinburgh-based, comic-book artist and writer. His new graphic journey through film bulges with such hefty names as Laura Mulvey (Todd Haynes’s theorist of choice) and André Bazin (the co-founder of the renowned French journal Cahiers du cinéma), and yet you will be able to whip clean through it in just a couple of hours. Even better, it promises to leave you with a long list of pictures you will want either to revisit, or to see for the first time.

'The Portable Veblen' Goes Enjoyably Nuts, by Heller Macalpin, NPR

Elizabeth McKenzie's clever, romantic comedy broadcasts quirkiness right on its cover, with its potentially off-putting title and its illustration of a squirrel instead of the interlocked wedding rings you might expect.

As Therapy Shows, Words Can Be Medicine, by Matt Haig, The Guardian

Humans are a clandestine species. We procreate behind closed doors, and we get ashamed of our illnesses. I am not immune to that shame, despite being that weird modern phenomenon: a public depressive. Or rather, a public person who is susceptible to depression.

Not one to fear hubris, I wrote a book called Reasons to Stay Alive. As well as promoting the book I have – since last April – appeared on TV and radio and in newspapers like this one talking about my illness. I am publicly ill, or publicly recovering, and it is odd.

In Search Of Japan’s Hidden Culinary Revolution, by Eli Gottlier, New York Times

I was on the Shinkansen bullet train and roaring north toward the Japan Sea at 125 miles per hour when I passed through the wormhole in space-time. The wormhole was on the far end of a long, unlit tunnel. Three-quarters of an hour earlier, in the midst of a sunny winter’s day, I’d boarded the train at the loud, insanely complex and many-leveled Tokyo main station, accompanied by my friend Bob Sliwa. We were bound for the coastal town of Kanazawa, sometimes known as the hidden pearl of the Japan Sea and famed for the freshness and variety of its fish-based cuisine.

The trip there last winter was to be the climax of my weeklong attempt to find the hidden culinary truth of Japan, beyond the reach of guidebooks or the well-intentioned efforts of such celebrity investigators as Anthony Bourdain. My secret weapon in this was Bob himself, a man embedded in Japan for 30 years, deeply conversant in the ways and cuisines of the country and, by great good fortune, my college roommate.

How “No Worries” Infected American English, by Matt Phillips, Quartz

The handy Australianism “no worries”—usually used in place of “you’re welcome”—has been burrowing deeper into the heart of American English.

First Principle, by Nancy Kress