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Friday, September 7, 2018

Humans Are Destroying Animals’ Ancestral Knowledge, by Ed Yong, The Atlantic

That knowledge takes time to accrue, which the team showed by studying both the bighorns and five groups of translocated moose. The more time these animals spent in a new place, the better their surfing ability was, and the more likely they were to migrate. Jesmer thinks this process likely occurs over generations: Individuals learn to move through the world by following their mothers, and then augment that inherited know-how with their own experiences. “Each generation, you get this incremental increase in knowledge,” Jesmer says. For sheep, he says, learning how to effectively exploit their environment takes around 50 to 60 years. Moose need closer to a century.

That knowledge allows the animals to find plants early, when they’re young, tender, and more easily digested. And by eating high-quality plants, they can more easily pack on the fat and protein that gets them through harsh winters. “When they lose that knowledge, their populations will suffer,” Jesmer says.

Historians’ Favorite Anecdote About Victorian-Era Orgasms Is Probably A Myth, by Robinson Meyer, Ashley Fetters, The Atlantic

It’s an intoxicating insight, implying that vibrators succeeded not because they advanced female pleasure, but because they saved labor for male physicians. And in the last few years, it has careened around popular culture. It’s given rise to a Tony-nominated play, a rom-com starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, and even a line of branded vibrators. Samantha Bee did a skit about it in March. A seemingly endless march of quirky news stories have instructed readers in its surprising-but-true quality, including in Vice, Mother Jones, and Psychology Today.

In short, the tale has become a commonplace one in how people think about Victorian sex. And according to a contentious new paper, it may also be almost totally false.

The Shuttered Lincoln Plaza Cinemas Is A Cultural Crime Scene, by Thomas Beller, New Yorker

There is something disturbing about a blank movie marquee. It’s like a face without a mouth. I don’t mean the brief transitory blankness when the lettering for one movie is taken down at the end of its run to be replaced with lettering for the next movie but, rather, a marquee that remains blank, day after day, week after week. This has been the condition of the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas marquee, on Sixty-third Street and Broadway, for the past six months. The theatre closed at the end of January, the lease not renewed. Every time I pass it by, the blankness provokes a feeling that some crime has been committed here. For a while, as though to make the metaphor explicit, some construction equipment beneath the marquee was surrounded by yellow tape. The theatre had been at that location for thirty years, but its legacy dates much further back, to a pair of cinema visionaries and entrepreneurs named Dan and Toby Talbot.

Why Your Latin Teacher Was Wrong, by The Economist

English has dipped into the Latin well so often that it has frequently concocted words that would be confusing even if you speak Latin as well as Augustus. English has pairs like alternate/alternative, fortunate/fortuitous, discrete/discreet, economic/economical, historic/historical, incredible/incredulous and many others. These use the same Latin roots twice, to make two different words with rather different shades of meaning. You are not necessarily ingenuous, or even a dolt in classics, if you confuse that word with ingenious. They both use the root gignere, to be born. (“Ingenious” means born with ability. The meaning of “ingenuous” went from free-born, to honest, to candid, to naive.)

Soho In The Eighties By Christopher Howse Review – A Decade Of Debauchery, by Will Self, The Guardian

At the fag end of this at once elegiac and emetic memoir, Christopher Howse observes: “Obviously a painter like Francis Bacon would not have painted as he did if he had not fallen into Soho.” But I wonder if this is really obvious at all? Bacon was the standout celebrity of London’s little Bohemia, not only in the 80s, but the 50s, 60s and 70s as well – his was also a burgeoning international celebrity, such that in the years since his death he’s come to be recognised as the pre-eminent figurative painter of the second half of the 20th century. That it should have been this tight grid of streets – the area pretty much contained by Wardour Street to the west, Charing Cross Road to the east, Oxford Street to the north and Shaftesbury Avenue to the south – that engendered such genius would seem as preposterous as the assertion that it was the Bateau-Lavoir alone that inspired Picasso’s cubism.

But then all bohemian milieus are really the creation of their minor not their major figures – the big beasts cruise through, ships in the night, en route for more exalted destinations, leaving bobbing in their wake parasitic poetasters, ready to cash in. It would be unfair, perhaps, to class Howse as one such: his sensitive, well-drawn book does a good job of conveying a particular place at a particular time, without either undue reverence or the anachronisms that dog hindsight. In particular, Howse is flinty-eyed about what principally animated Soho’s high spirits during the 80s (and the previous three decades for that matter): alcohol.

Sally Rooney’s Second Novel Is Darker Than Her First, by The Economist

Sally Rooney's first novel, “Conversations with Friends”—the story of the fluctuating friendship of two Dublin college students and their involvement with an older married couple—was a deserved success. Her follow-up, “Normal People”, which has been longlisted for the Man Booker prize, is a lovely, mostly painful examination of the agonising, will-they-won’t-they relationship between two characters, Connell and Marianne.

Mount Everest Defeated Them — And So, In The End, Did India, by Simon Winchester, New York Times

Imagine my surprise. More than half a century ago, I was taught geology at Oxford by a diminutive, pugnacious and leather-skinned Yorkshireman named Lawrence Rickard Wager, known to most (though perhaps not to us respectful undergraduates) as Bill. I knew that, famously for scientists, he had discovered a remarkable body of igneous rock in East Greenland (of which more later) and that, much more famously for the postwar climbing fraternity, he very nearly succeeded in reaching the summit of Mount Everest in 1933. (On the way down, he and his climbing partner found an abandoned ice ax from the ill-starred Mallory-and-Irvine expedition of a decade earlier, thereby adding a further measure of intrigue to that greatest of recent Himalayan mountaineering legends.)

All this I knew. What surprised me was that my teacher turns out to have been one of the select cadre who populate pre-independence India in Deborah Baker’s sprawling, difficult book, “The Last Englishmen,” and that he was, apparently, a bit of a cad. He was a fine climber, a courageous, no-nonsense man. But tellingly, in a grumbling letter about the failure of his 1933 expedition, Wager told his friend and fellow geologist John Auden that Auden had some kind of nervous tic but declined to say what it was, leaving Auden “beside himself with worry” as he fretted about it. “That,” Baker observes, “was Wager’s idea of fun.”

‘Who Moved My Cheese’ Became A Monster Hit. Twenty Years Later, We’re Still Wondering Why., by Ron Charles, Washington Post

Johnson’s big-print fable captured the imagination of a whole generation of managers, but the question of what moved “Who Moved My Cheese?” remains something of a mystery. Its phenomenal success exceeded the expectations of almost everyone involved at the beginning. After all, the title sounded silly, and years had passed since Johnson had co-written “The One Minute Manager” with Kenneth Blanchard. So when early sales of “Who Moved My Cheese?” languished, no one was particularly shocked. One former publishing executive recalls that the book looked all-but-dead.

But then, several months later, orders started pouring in — not just from bookstores but from businesses, too. Johnson was on the road, delivering motivational and management talks; word of mouth began to spread. Fortune magazine reported that executives at Procter & Gamble, General Electric and Hewlett-Packard were recommending the book. Southwest Airlines ordered copies for all its 27,000 employees.