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Showing posts from May, 2022

The Washington Post: "Authoritarianism is surging — Can liberal democracy fight back?" by Carlos Lozada

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Writing in The Washington Post , Carlos Lozada reviews two new books on the threats to liberal democracy: Liberalism and Its Discontents by Francis Fukuyama and The Age of the Strongman by Gideon Rachma: When warring cultures and distant poles are the recurring metaphors for our politics, genteel calls for moderation may seem quaint. When authoritarian impulses are ascendant, wishing for self-restraint can feel foolish, a denial of reality and an abdication of responsibility. But what if moderation and restraint — the acceptance of limits in political life — are not just the right thing, but really all that is left to try? Full review here.  

National Science Foundation: Changes In Doctorates Awarded From 1990 to 2020

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Here's an analysis of the fields of study of all the earned doctorates awarded by U.S. colleges and universities from 1990 to 2020. Doctoral study increases The three fields of study with the greatest increase in doctorates were: * Biological and biomedical sciences * Heatlh sciences * Computer and information sciences The growth in these majors is remarkable. The number of doctorates in biological and biomedical sciences rose from 4,328 in 1990 to 8,418 in 2020. (This includes topics such as anatomy, bacteriology, botany, endocrinology, genetics, genomics, neuroscience, and pharmacology often studied by professors of biology and academic and industrial research scientists.) D octoral study decreases The three fields of study with the greatest decrease in doctorates were: * Education administration * Teacher education * Education research The decline in these majors is striking. The number of doctorates in education administration fell from 1,664 in 1990 to 927 in 2020. (This inclu

The New York Review Of Books: "Under Their Skin" by Laura Miller

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Writing in The New York Review Of Books , Laura Miller goes deep into Olga Ravn’s The Employees: A Workplace Novel Of The 22nd Century. The premise is unsettling, as is the title: It is the first book by the Danish poet, novelist, and literary critic to be translated into English and was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2021. Presented as a collection of records, primarily the transcripts of statements made by the crew of the Six Thousand Ship to a committee of unspecified composition, it documents the breakdown of the ship’s mission after the vessel arrives at a planet called New Discovery and the crew brings aboard a selection of objects found there. But the objects—which are referred to only as “the objects,” the most reductive and nondescriptive term for pretty much anything—aren’t monsters and don’t chase the crew members around. None of the speakers offer a full description of these things (or creatures?), but Ravn has said they were inspired by the sc

The Fence: All Possible Plots By Major Authors

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The Fence itemizes all possible plots by major authors, such as: Anthony Trollope : Your happiness is put on hold when it transpires your fiancé failed to correctly cash a cheque. This lasts for 130 chapters. Everyone else is ordained. More possible plots by major authors here.

Drinking Harrods Coffee From the 1930s with James Hoffman

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English barista James Hoffman was presented with an old bag of coffee beans apparently from Harrods. In this video, he explains how he determined it was probably sold in Argentina in the 1930s. He then roasted the beans, ground them, and brewed himself a cup.

Washington Post: "In These Disappointing Essays, David Mamet Can’t Close The Deal" by David Oppenheimer

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David Mamet is inarguably one of our greatest living playwrights, and no small talent as a director. His boldness, his wit, his hard-nosed ability to show us our own demons and our own follies would suggest that anything at all he care to write would be worth reading. Writing in The Washington Post , however, Daniel Oppenheimer finds Mamet's new e-book ( Recessional: The Death of Free Speech and the Cost of a Free Lunch ) to be a disappointment: Telling an author what he should have written is one of the cardinal sins of book criticism. In the case of Recessional , though, it seems like the only critically generous thing to do. Because the alternative is to dwell on the book as it is, which is a pale facsimile of my hypothetical. “Recessional” isn’t really a book at all but a McBook. It’s a collection of disparate pieces, written mostly as columns for National Review, that are given back to us in book form only because the author has a big name and there’s some money to be m

Quanta Magazine: "Why ‘De-Extinction’ Is Impossible (But Could Work Anyway)" by Yasemin Saplakoglu

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Writing in Quanta Magazine , Yasemin Saplakoglu explains some approaches to the idea of resurrecting extinct species such as the mammoth or the dodo. She finds that for many researchers, it doesn't matter so much whether it is technically possible or not: Most de-extinction researchers aren’t looking to resurrect a charismatic ancient beast just for the sake of putting it into the nearest zoo for viewer pleasure. Rather, they are aiming to create proxies for educational or conservation purposes, such as to fill the void left by their extinct counterparts in ecosystems or to boost the numbers of modern-day endangered species. Full article here.

The Hedgehog Review: "Judge Knot – Is There a Good Way of Knowing Things?" by Matthew Mutter

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Writing in The Hedgehog Review , Matthew Mutter reviews two works on value, reason, aesthetics, and the role of authority in the humanities: A Defense of Judgment (2021) by Michael Clune and Humanist Reason: A History. An Argument. A Plan. (2021) by Eric Hayot. How do we know what is good, and how can we be sure of what we know? For years, I played basketball with a humanities skeptic. He was an endowment manager at the Ivy League university from which he had graduated with a degree in economics. He knew I was a professor of literature, and one day he asked what I taught—and did I by any chance teach Moby-Dick ? I nodded, and he said, “You don’t believe the hype, do you?” His proudest moment in college had come when, required to read the novel for a first-year class, he developed a firm belief that Moby-Dick ’s reputation was explainable chiefly by its obscurity. The emperor had no clothes: The novel was taught because it was revered, and revered because it was taught. Baffled

X-Ray: Quinn Forlini's "After Not Leaving The House For Three Days"

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In X-Ray Literary Magazine , Quinn Forlini's "After Not Leaving The House For Three Days" describes how Anna and her mother at last went for a walk:  Anna’s mother convinces her to go for a walk. The weather’s getting warmer. Anna feels like she’s been living inside a tunnel, or an artery.   She’s thirteen. Last week she dyed her hair purple from a box at the drugstore and it’s ugly. She pulls her hair into a ponytail, feeling the roughness as it passes through her fingers from the cheap dye. Her mother tried to warn her, and that made her want it more. Full story here.

Flea Explains What Makes A Great Bass Player

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Flea of The Red Hot Chili Peppers explains how the playing the bass involves playing with the drummer, the vocalist, and the other higher-pitched instruments — and, in considering his own work, the work of James Jamerson, and the work of Jaco Pastorius — he explains how the essence of superior bass playing is selflessness.

Encounter Beneath The Oak

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I make daily obeisance and peanut offerings to the weresquirrel living in an oak tree in our front yard.  It appears to considers me as any numinous incarnation from the rodent todash space might: with feigned indifference that melts to exaggerated jubilation, perhaps so that it might convince me to lower my defenses and inadvertently provide an opening through the thinny.  I hear the limnal kammen sounding. I hear it.  This furry son of Maerlyn and I had such an encounter just now. "Ah," I heard its wee dereistic voice say in my head, "So we meet again, and so again you bear the goober Arachis. Eftsoons shall it be again, and again. So it must be and so it must always be."  And yet I know it speaks falsely. How could it be otherwise?  I know it waits for me there, waits for me behind the tree I planted with my own hands, waiting for the world to move on, waiting for the beam to break at last. The ancient beast waits, and plots, and munches. — J.F. "Jeff"

Smithsonian Magazine: Thousands Of Andrew Wyeth Paintings Have Never Been Seen by the Public — Until Now

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Writing in Smithsonian Magazine , Sarah Kuta explains why two art museums (one in Maine and another in Pennsylvania) find themselves in charge of exhibiting thousands of never-before-seen paintings by Andrew Wyeth. Full article here.

New York Times: Hidden In A Fire Island House, The Soundtrack of Love And Loss

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Writing in The New York Times , T.M. Brown describe how a couple found an old milk crate full of old cassette tapes left behind in a house on Fire Island. The tapes turned out to be a vivid testimony of how music was used to fight death and hate during the AIDS epidemic. Full story with multimedia gallery here.

Poem: "Her Kind" by Anne Sexton

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I have gone out, a possessed witch,    haunting the black air, braver at night;    dreaming evil, I have done my hitch    over the plain houses, light by light:    lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.    A woman like that is not a woman, quite.    I have been her kind. Anne Sexton. (1981). "Her Kind" from The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin). Full poem here.

Breakfast, Interrupted

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 I got up just around sunrise. Before I began making breakfast, I stepped out the front door.   I found myself standing thisclose to a juvenile rabbit, who seemed as surprised as I was. We considered each other for a few minutes. I stood still so as not to startle the little one, and it stood still likely to avoid becoming prey.  This state of affairs, while pleasant for me in the instant, is not how either of us wanted to spend the rest of the day, but I figured it wasn't really my place to make the first move.  Little bun was showing admirable restraint, I thought. I expected it to bolt for the safe cover of the abundant fan palms just a few feet away, but it did not. I could see its nose assessing what it could, its eyes unblinking, its ears folded low trying to keep a low profile.  Then we both heard the sudden whip of air beneath the great wings of some large raptor moving far too swiftly for me to identify, and we both startled from it. The dive was rapid and flamboyant, but

Flashback: Explaining The Moog Synthesizer At The Grammys And With Its Pioneers

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During the 1985 Grammy Awards show, there was a synthesizer medley performed by Thomas Dolby, Herbie Hancock, Howard Jones, and Stevie Wonder. It was quite a jam, and, although it came at least a decade too late, it recognized the ascendance of the synthesizer in pop, rock, jazz, and R&B. In a glaring reminder of how things were in the 80s, John Denver deadnamed Moog pioneer Wendy Carlos, whose phenomenal work had been a profound influence on each of these performers. This performance came nearly twenty years after Carlos' albums such as the platinum-selling Switched On Bach demonstrated how synthesizers could be grandly expressive instruments and almost that long since she announced her gender reassignment. She was also already well-known for her gloriously synthesized scores of films such as A Clockwork Orange , The Shining , and Tron .  Here she is reviewing her work with inventor Robert Moog, putting the Grammy jam into much richer context — including explaining how synthe