Wednesday, November 06, 2013
Boccaccio was not a noble; he was one of the nuova gente, the mercantile middle class, whose steady rise since the twelfth century the nobles feared and deplored. Boccaccio’s father, Boccaccino di Chellino, was a merchant, and he expected Giovanni to join the trade. Giovanni was born illegitimate, but Boccaccino acknowledged him. When the boy was thirteen, Boccaccino moved from Florence to Naples to work for an important counting house, and he took his son with him, to learn the business: receive clients, oversee inventory, and the like. Boccaccio did not enjoy this work, and so his indulgent father paid for him to go to university, to study canon law. Boccaccio didn’t like that, either, but during this time he read widely. (The Decameron is, unostentatiously, a very learned book.) He also began to write: romances in verse and prose, mostly. With those literary credits, plus his father’s contacts, he gained entry to Naples’s Angevin court, whose refinements seeped into his work. He later said that he had never wanted to be anything but a poet. In Naples, he became one, of the late-medieval stripe. These were the happiest years of his life.
"In the occupied West Bank, “Undesirable life is ended, and unauthorized death is banned.”
So we should ask Mohammed Al-Durra. He isn’t dead again.
Recall his face. Even from a government one of the chief exports of which is images of screaming children, his was particularly choice, tucked behind his desperate father, pinned by fire. Until Israeli bullets visit them and they both go limp. He for good. Pour encourager les autres.
Now, though, thirteen years after he was shot on camera—one year more than he lived—he has been brought back to life. But wait before you celebrate: there are no very clear protocols for this strange paper resurrection. Mohammed Al-Durra is a bureaucratic Lazarus. After a long official investigation, by the power vested in it, the Israeli government has declared him not dead. He did not die.
There was another boy at the hospital, there were no injuries, it was a trick. A blood libel to suggest he was killed by Israelis, the same day as were Nizar Aida and Khaled al-Bazyan, one day before Muhammad al-Abasi and Sara Hasan and Samer Tubanja and Sami al-Taramsi and Hussam Bakhit and Iyad al-Khashishi, two before Wael Qatawi and Aseel Asleh, three before Hussam al-Hamshari and Amr al-Rifai, but stop because listing killed children takes a long time. Keep his name out of that file.more here. The Wedding Poem
Let no one claim
That love is false. Let no one
Tell a tale of love's dilution,
Cross his lips with doubt,
Or discuss the up and down and up
Of love chained to a balance beam -
Laundry and who takes out the trash.
Instead, let us make a pact:
To stop for this short time
The radio in our heads, the voices
Of discontent that drive us mad -
The committee of shoulds and oughts
And might have beens. The old harangue
Of never never never.
To forsake, for these next minutes
(Not for this couple but for ourselves),
All the symptoms of our days.
Then, together, let us swear,
That this sun, this sky, these vows,
This bubble balanced on the point
of a knife is all there is -
For we have pushed aside the walls
That close us in
To come to this shared space. And see -
We have filled the space with flowers,
Where love, like some bright bird
Too swift to hold,
May light for us a while and sing.
by Alice Friman
from Proposing on the Brooklyn Bridge
Poetworks / Grayson Books, 2003
Tuesday, November 05, 2013
Debra Satz, Mark Budolfson, Blake Francis, and Hyunseop Kim over at the Boston Review:
Ethics are important. The economic divide between the developed and developing world highlights the ethical dimensions of energy access in a climate-constrained world. Is it fair to hinder economic growth in developing countries because the wealthiest nations have changed the composition of the atmosphere and changed the climate of the planet? To what extent do the developed nations bear responsibility for not only remedying the problem, but also for compensating those people who are now suffering because of climate climate, or who could face tight emissions restrictions? As the economic balance of the world changes, what role should rapidly developing nations share in the responsibility to address these issues?
Here, we examine these issues through the lens of one country, Pakistan, which is struggling with a severe energy crisis that is holding back economic development and exacerbating political instability.
“It was like an apparition,” Hilary Braysmith, the art historian who directed Sculpt EVV, said of Melman’s contest entry. “The universe just opened up and left this door. It picked up the light and changed colors. It was a different experience at different times of day.” Braysmith compared Best of All Possible Worlds to the Vietnam War Memorial and The Dinner Party, Judy Chicago’s iconic feminist revision of The Last Supper, saying that it has changed her idea of what public art can accomplish.
People were drawn to Melman’s sculpture in a way they weren’t to the work of the other eleven finalists, according to Braysmith. She mentioned, as did other local artists and residents I talked to, the fact that Melman took the neighbors’ concerns seriously and got to know them. Braysmith also remarked on how uncannily appropriate, in architectural terms, Melman’s sculpture was. Whether due to chance or standardization in the early-twentieth-century American construction industry—Melman bought his original doors, including the one he used as a mold for the Evansville sculpture, at an apartment-salvage place near his studio in Gowanus, Brooklyn—the sculpture matched the front door of Rena Meriweather’s house, right next door.more here.
Given that geoengineering represents an attempt to address the symptoms of a problem (climate change) without any effort to address the causes of that problem (unsustainable development patterns), and therefore does not require any of the more fundamental shifts that climate campaigners have long called for, it is unsurprising that these ideas have found enthusiastic advocates among certain free market ideologues. Indeed, Hamilton argues that ‘geoengineering is an essentially conservative technology’ (p. 120), appealing to those to whom any infringement of economic freedoms is anathema. Perhaps the most interesting chapter of this book is Hamilton’s exploration of the personal and institutional linkages that constitute the core of this contested field, outlining the involvement of such right-wing think-tanks as the American Enterprise Institute, the Heartland Institute and the Hoover Institution, as well as influential entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson. While the limited number of players has been widely commented upon – the term ‘geoclique’ introduced by Eli Kintisch in 2010 to describe this small group of highly influential individuals, has been widely cited – Hamilton draws attention to the potential importance not just of individuals, but of ways of thinking, and institutional cultures. For example, he highlights the fact that a surprising number of prominent geoengineering researchers and advocates have, at some time, worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Influential in nuclear weapons research during the cold war, it has developed a particular intellectual culture, characterised by the belief that ‘understanding and exercising control of the technologies was sufficient to render them safe, as if mastery in the technical sphere carried over in to the political sphere’ (p. 123). These ideas, Hamilton maintains, are already showing signs of being formative in the emerging debates around geoengineering.
Lolita’s form and plot – a long confessional monologue by Humbert Humbert, a killer, abductor and rapist (the accuracy of this last term is still argued over by critics) describing his crimes in detail – made it not only risqué but, as the reader above noted, potentially ruinous to anyone involved in its production. Nabokov seems to have been well aware of this, and to have expected little in the way of commercial success from the novel. He knew that The New Yorker, which had published extracts from several of his works (and to which he was obliged to show it first) would never touch it, and he was not only prepared to accept a relatively low royalty rate for any edition but even hoped to publish the book anonymously (an idea he gave up when advised that it was unlikely to work). Boyd describes how, when leaving Cornell for his 1954 summer holidays, he locked the typescripts in a box, hid the key in another locked box, and then locked the office itself. All of the major publishers and several friends who initially viewed it kept their distance: Simon and Schuster’s editors described the book as “sheer pornography” while even sympathetic friends at New Directions felt that it was too big a gamble. Nabokov was soon searching abroad for a publisher, and the book ended up in the hands of the Olympia Press.
From The Talks:
I couldn’t write the same kind of songs now that I wrote then. I am not the same person and you don’t have the same anxieties and passions as you do when you’re in your twenties. But I find other ways of writing. I found that I can write from another person’s point of view or I can even use someone else’s words and make a song out of that. And that is liberating for me because it allows me to express emotions through another person that I would never ever express on my own.
I imagine the Talking Heads’ song “Psycho Killer” falls into that category…
It was not autobiographical. (Laughs) That was the first song that I wrote, so it was the way of discovering if I could write a song. And after that one I knew that I understood the form and then I knew I can write something more personal. Everything after that became more personal.
I love your performance of that song at the opening of Stop Making Sense.
Thank you. That was the show that we were doing on tour back then. The film just makes it a little bit shorter so you get the narrative a little bit faster.
Akbar Ganji in the Boston Review:
In repeatedly claiming that Iranian leaders wish to destroy Israel and kill the Jewish people, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is spreading Iranophobia and helping to impose the most crippling economic sanctions in history on Iran. Netanyahu is belligerent in his claims: in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, October 1, Netanyahu mentioned Iran seventy times and “Rouhani”—not Mr. or President Rouhani—twenty-five times. He has also threatened that if necessary, Israel will attack Iran on its own, and claimed that Iran wants to “wipe Israel off the map.” He does not recognize Iran’s right to peaceful use of nuclear technology and energy—a right that Iran has as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—and has also claimed that Iran “is preparing for another Holocaust.”
How truthful are these claims? In the past, it is true Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei has spoken of destroying Israel, and Article 110 of the Islamic Republic of Iran stipulates that the Supreme Leader sets the general policies of the country. In practice, this means he decides whether to negotiate with the United States, and sets Iran’s policy vis-à-vis Israel. But there are major differences between the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Khamenei eras, and Khamenei’s thinking on Israel has changed over time. (The recent diplomatic initiative by President Rouhani, indeed, would not be possible if Khamenei had not given him “full authority.”)
With the end to the Iran-Iraq War in 1988, and the revolution in communications over the past two decades, respect for human rights and democracy has become so universal that even dictators can no longer ignore them.
Louise Doughty in The Guardian:
Those who love short-form fiction have had reason to cheer recently: the success of high profile competitions such as the BBC Short Story award, Sunday Times EFG Short Story award and the new Costa Short Story award; and now Alice Munro winning the Nobel after several decades of producing quietly brilliant volumes. A literary form declared dead on the slab a few years ago has proved to have a soft but resolutely pumping pulse.
At first glance, Zadie Smith's new volume might seem part of that resurgence. Numbering 69 small pages with a lot of white space, it's an extended story that first appeared in the New Yorker earlier this year and is now being published simultaneously as an ebook, audio book read by Smith herself and handy, pocket-sized hardback. The Embassy of Cambodia isn't a short story, though. It's a novel in miniature, divided into 21 tiny "chapters", each of which is a brief scene that encapsulates what many writers would take several thousand words to say. Reading it is a bit like having a starter in a restaurant that is so good you wish you had ordered a big portion as a main course, only to realise, as you finish it, that it was exactly the right amount. It begins in a somewhat disconcerting manner – in the narrative form of the fourth person, or first person plural: "we". "Who would expect the Embassy of Cambodia? Nobody. Nobody could have expected it, or be expecting it. It's a surprise to us, that's all… we, the people of Willesden." At this stage, the reader might suspect Smith of having an in-joke at the expense of those who have stereotyped her as a poster girl for tales of cheery multiculturalism in a particular corner of north-west London.
Later this "we" turns out to be an elderly lady standing on a balcony of an old people's home, "barely covered" in her dressing gown: the kind of distressed yet omniscient figure who appears to command and control many an inner-city street.
Darshak M. Sanghavi in The New York Times:
It was shortly after the breadbasket arrived last year at the Temple Bar near Harvard Square that Sarah Broom first told me about the last-ditch plan to save her own life. Broom’s mere presence that evening was something of a miracle. Several years earlier, in 2008, while pregnant with her third child, she received a harrowing diagnosis. A 35-year-old English lecturer and poet living in New Zealand, Broom developed a persistent cough. She saw doctors in Auckland repeatedly over the course of a few months, but they didn’t want to do an X-ray on a pregnant woman. Finally, her shortness of breath became so severe that they relented, and 29 weeks into her pregnancy, she was found to have a large mass on her lung. She underwent a cesarean section — her daughter was born almost three months early — and a biopsy. Broom had advanced-stage lung cancer. “I was told nothing could be done to cure the cancer, but that various treatments could give me time,” she recalled. Less than 1 percent of patients live more than five years. She endured chemotherapy for weeks but then developed severe pelvic pain. To her horror, tests showed there was a new plum-size tumor on her ovary that wasn’t present at her C-section. The cancer was spreading relentlessly. Broom’s doctors predicted she had only a few months to live. She worried about her two sons, Daniel and Christopher, ages 5 and 2; her husband, Michael, whom she’d been with since they were teenagers; and her premature baby, Amelia, who was still hospitalized in the newborn unit. “My determination was to live, to live a long time — what else could I do, with three little kids depending on me — but at this time, it was clear that the situation looked pretty dire indeed,” Broom told me.
In desperation, she called friends around the world, including Meghan O’Sullivan, a former deputy national security adviser in the Bush administration, who contacted Bruce Chabner, the director of clinical research at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Boston. Chabner asked Broom to send him her biopsy, so he could analyze its DNA. Her tumor had a mutation in a gene called anaplastic lymphoma kinase, or ALK, which occurs in about 5 percent of lung cancers. A Japanese group discovered it only a year earlier. Chabner knew that the drug company Pfizer was developing a new compound called crizotinib that might treat this mutation. The trouble was, it had been given to only two ALK-positive people before, and one died anyway. Still, it was Broom’s only hope, and Pfizer agreed to enroll her in a trial in Australia. Incredibly, the tumors shrank by half, and Broom led an almost normal life for two years.
Bill Keller in the New York Times:
Much of the speculation about the future of news focuses on the business model: How will we generate the revenues to pay the people who gather and disseminate the news? But the disruptive power of the Internet raises other profound questions about what journalism is becoming, about its essential character and values. This week’s column is a conversation — a (mostly) civil argument — between two very different views of how journalism fulfills its mission.
Glenn Greenwald broke what is probably the year’s biggest news story, Edward Snowden’s revelations of the vast surveillance apparatus constructed by the National Security Agency. He has also been an outspoken critic of the kind of journalism practiced at places like The New York Times, and an advocate of a more activist, more partisan kind of journalism. Earlier this month he announced he was joining a new journalistic venture, backed by eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar, who has promised to invest $250 million and to “throw out all the old rules.” I invited Greenwald to join me in an online exchange about what, exactly, that means.
We come at journalism from different traditions. I’ve spent a life working at newspapers that put a premium on aggressive but impartial reporting, that expect reporters and editors to keep their opinions to themselves unless they relocate (as I have done) to the pages clearly identified as the home of opinion. You come from a more activist tradition — first as a lawyer, then as a blogger and columnist, and soon as part of a new, independent journalistic venture financed by the eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Your writing proceeds from a clearly stated point of view.
Form in the woods: the beast,
a bobcat padding through red sumac,
the pheasant in break or goldenrod
that he stalks - both rise to the flush,
the brief low flutter and catch in air;
and trees, rich green, the moving of boughs
and the separate leaf, yield
to conclusions they do not care about
or watch - the dead, frayed bird,
the beautiful plumage,
the spoor of feathers
and slight, pink bones.
by Jim Harrison
from The Shape of the Journey
Copper Canyon Press, 1998
Monday, November 04, 2013
With this almost inconspicuous dot I wrap things up.
Bring all pleasures to an end. Call it off.
There’s a tiny tidiness to it, but the muscle of
cessation too —it can stop a truck.
With this sinuous hook I pop a question
whenever I want to reach outside the box I’m in:
Why God, for instance?
Or how come these crows do not give ground
but stand and glare as if they owned this field
of mine and me?
How deeply down are they aware?
How far under do they stare?
How much more of something do they see?
With this tadpoled period I may pause a second,
swimming among multitudes noting and naming.
Mesmerized by its breath-taking tail I rest,
then go on expanding and elucidating,
although in this case of hesitating
I’ve nothing more to say
and no one’s waiting anyway
except for future anthropologists
nosing round and carbon dating
But wait, there’s more. With comma’s versatility
I may string ten thousand things like beads
listing names of every city in the world, every lover,
their triumphs, dreams and classic poses
or as the evening closes, I may breathe mid-sentence
and signify I’ve thought of something else:
alyssum, flox, hydrangea, roses
And finally, to show how much you mean to me, my friend,
I’ll set your name apart with two of these for rapt attention
until I’m ended with that dot I mentioned.
by Jim Culleny, 11/2/13
by Paul Braterman
Same thumb, different family
Names can be deceptive. The red panda and the giant panda are not two different varieties of the same species; they are completely different species, and only distantly related. They do not even look very similar. The red panda is much smaller than the giant panda, coloured brown and cream, and has a long striped tail. The giant panda is, of course, black and white, with a very short tail, and black patches over its eyes. These patches help give it the cuddly appearance that makes it so popular in zoos.
Both animals are found in China, although the red panda spills over into Nepal and northern India; both are anatomically carnivores, but live on bamboo; and both have the same kind of false "thumb". This "thumb" is, really, nothing of the sort, but simply a modified wrist bone, while all five true digits are used in walking. The "thumb" is opposable, meaning that it can be moved to grip against the other digits, but has no joints or claw.
As early as 1825, Frédéric Cuvier (brother of the more famous Georges) described the red panda and proposed that was related to the racoon. The giant panda, however, did not become known in the West until considerably later. A French missionary in China described a skin in 1869; Teddy Roosevelt Jr and his brother Kermit, sons of President Teddy Roosevelt, saw a giant panda in China in the 1920s (true to family tradition, they promptly shot it); and it was not until 1936 that the first giant panda arrived in a Western zoo. Most zoologists considered it to be a kind of bear, on the basis of its anatomy, although a few thought that the two kinds of "panda" really were closely related. The matter was finally and conclusively resolved by comparing the DNA of both animals with that of other species. As expected, the giant panda belongs to the bear family, while it turns out that the red panda is in a genus all of its own, with skunks, raccoons and badgers as its closest relatives. But you do not find the false thumb in raccoons and skunks, and you do not find it in polar bears and grizzlies. So it is not a shared feature of this branch of the carnivore family tree, but a separate similar development in the two "pandas". A similar false thumb is also found in some species of mole. These are examples of what is called parallel evolution, in which the same modification arises independently in different species. To use technical language, the thumbs are analogous (similar, and performing the same function), but not homologous (not a feature inherited from a common ancestor).
by Brooks Riley
Startling, the morning and startling, the noon.
Mist, and we didn’t understand it.
There was a message coming from unimaginable mountains
and we breathed dumbly inside it.
Some of us had our ears to the angels,
to the windows in the basins of whiskey glasses;
measured ourselves against different sticks
and stretched our shadows.
There was never a way to medicate
the loons of the inner heart, or stop
the white scarves of our breath in winter
from howling about us. We cracked
perfect white eggs for breakfast,
glimpsed the lining of the darker
jokes, and felt very wise
and frightened. The word ‘brave’
grew a ring around it. Spilt coffee
widened on the tablecloth; it mattered
separately from other things, like the way
hearts hung inside question
marks, and the rising water, the outline
of an ark; that it was our turn to board it.
We could not sense death.
But a thicket of nights gathered in the muck
that lovingly blackens the base of the skull
and we thought of beautiful things.
by Mara Jebsen
Sunday, November 03, 2013
Ian Steadman in Wired:
According to Sloan-Kettering, only around 20 percent of the knowledge that human doctors use when diagnosing patients and deciding on treatments relies on trial-based evidence. It would take at least 160 hours of reading a week just to keep up with new medical knowledge as it's published, let alone consider its relevance or apply it practically. Watson's ability to absorb this information faster than any human should, in theory, fix a flaw in the current healthcare model. Wellpoint's Samuel Nessbaum has claimed that, in tests, Watson's successful diagnosis rate for lung cancer is 90 percent, compared to 50 percent for human doctors.
Adam Shatz reviews Stanley Crouch's Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker, in the NYRB:
“Bird was kind of like the sun, giving off the energy we drew from him,” Max Roach said of the alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. The sun set early for Parker, who died at thirty-four of pneumonia on March 12, 1955. He spent his last few days in a suite at the Stanhope Hotel owned by the Baronness Nica de Koenigswarter, a Rothschild heiress who was well known for her patronage of jazz musicians. He’d been watching a juggler on the Tommy Dorsey show when he collapsed. A baseless rumor spread that the baroness’s lover, the drummer Art Blakey, either shot or knocked him out in the middle of a quarrel, but Parker, who had been shooting heroin since he was seventeen, hardly needed help killing himself. He was a world-class musician, but he was also a world-class addict. His body was so haggard that the doctor who examined him estimated his age at fifty-three.
Kansas City Lightning, the first volume of Stanley Crouch’s Parker biography, never gets to the Stanhope. It covers only the first twenty-one years of Parker’s life. But each page is haunted by the demons that brought down the man known as Bird. In the richly evocative set piece that opens the book, Parker turns up late for a gig at the Savoy Ballroom with the Jay McShann Orchestra. Crouch imagines the musicians on stage asking themselves, “Why did this guy have to be the guy with all the talent?… Why did his private life have to mess up everybody’s plans so often?” This is, of course, conjecture, but it’s not unreasonable to think that Parker’s bandmates might have wished that he was more like the courtly and punctual Duke Ellington. Parker often nodded off during concerts, or vanished midway through a set. When he wasn’t playing, he was copping for heroin. He stole from his family and friends. His most lasting relationship was with his horn, which he often pawned when he was in need of a fix. Miles Davis, who worshiped Parker, called him “one of the slimiest and greediest mother fuckers who ever lived.”
Ullrich Fichtner in Spiegel Online:
Today, 68 years after the end of the war and 24 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we Germans are respected, admired and sometimes even loved. The fact that we generally don't know what to do with all this admiration, because we collectively still seem to assume that we are not likeable and therefore must be unpopular, is a problem that very quickly becomes political. It's obvious that Germans' perception of themselves and the way we are perceived by others differ dramatically.
Even if some would not consider a travel guide to be the most credible basis for political reflections, it's easy to find other sources of praise for Germany and the Germans. The BBC conducts an annual poll to name the "most popular country in the world." Germany came in a clear first in the latest poll, and it wasn't the first time. Some 59 percent of 26,000 respondents in 25 countries said that the Germans exert a "positive influence" in the world (and not surprisingly, the only country in which the view of Germany is overwhelmingly negative at the moment is Greece).
In the "Nation Brands Index" prepared by the American market research company GfK, which surveys more than 20,000 people in 20 countries about the image of various nations, Germany is currently in second place, behind the United States. This index is not some idle exercise, but is used as a decision-making tool by corporate strategists and other investors. GfK asks questions in six categories, including the quality of the administration and the condition of the export economy, and Germany is at the top of each category. But when Germans do acknowledge their current standing in the world, they always seem to be somewhat coy or even amused.
The rest of the world doesn't understand this (anymore). The rest of the world is waiting for Germany. But instead of feeling pleased about Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski's historic statement that he fears Germany's power less than its inactivity, we cringe anxiously over such sentiments. When US President Barack Obama calls Germany a leading global power, we hope that he doesn't really mean it. And when politicians in Israel say that Germany should wield its power more actively, we don't interpret it as a mandate to become more committed, but are puzzled instead.
We Germans? Exercise power? Take action? Lead?
Alice Béja in Eurozine:
Reading Hanna Rosin's End of Men, one would think Friedan completely obsolete. For Rosin, women are very close to taking over the world: they do better than men at school, and will benefit from the end of blue-collar jobs and the rise of the service industry. For Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, women have to "lean in" in order to make it in the workplace; they can succeed without giving up on having a family. The success of the few will benefit all; for Sandberg, the "trickle down" theory of wealth is applicable to the cause of women. In fact, according to Kate Bolick, women should relish the independence they gain through work, and enjoy their lives without succumbing to the fetters of marriage and children.
The debate about the place of women in the professional world has gained momentum in the United States mainstream media over the past two years, and has reignited the 1980s "mommy wars", which, at the time, pitted housewives against working women, and were one of the legacy of the feminist movement led by Betty Friedan. Should women be more confident? Have they already won the struggle for professional emancipation? Or is it time to question the focus on work and career, and to reappraise the value of family life?
These issues are particularly sensitive in the United States, where women's social protection largely depends on their employer. For a while, they were sidelined by the struggle for reproductive rights, especially the fight to defend women's right to choose, Roe v. Wade being under threat in many states. The media's focus in this debate on women who are white, rich and have high-profile jobs has had two consequences on the national conversation around women and feminism: on the one hand, it has revived the language of "responsibility", the "when there's a will there's a way" logic which is also applied to the poor and the unemployed, on the principle that if they're not making it, it means they don't want it enough. In this perspective, individual initiative alone is the key to success and if women are to make it in the professional world, they should simply "lean in". On the other hand however, there has been a reaction against this paternalistic approach to women's place in society. Dissent published an issue on "the new feminism", that stressed social issues and the fact that women, far from "having it all", seldom have a choice between work and family; most of them have to work in order to be able to support their family.
Thomas Nagel in TNR:
Joshua Greene... asks how our moral beliefs and attitudes should be affected by these psychological findings. Greene began his training and research as a doctoral student in philosophy, so he is familiar from the inside with the enterprise of ethical theory conceived not as a part of empirical psychology but as a direct first-order investigation of moral questions, and a quest for systematic answers to them. His book is intended as a radical challenge to the assumptions of that philosophical enterprise. It benefits from his familiarity with the field, even if his grasp of the views that he discusses is not always accurate.
The book is framed as the search for a solution to a global problem that cannot be solved by the kinds of moral standards that command intuitive assent and work well within particular communities. Greene calls this problem the “tragedy of commonsense morality.” In a nutshell, it is the tragedy that moralities that help members of particular communities to cooperate peacefully do not foster a comparable harmony among members of different communities.
Morality evolved to enable cooperation, but this conclusion comes with an important caveat. Biologically speaking, humans were designed for cooperation, but only with some people. Our moral brains evolved for cooperation within groups, and perhaps only within the context of personal relationships. Our moral brains did not evolve for cooperation between groups (at least not all groups).... As with the evolution of faster carnivores, competition is essential for the evolution of cooperation.
The tragedy of commonsense morality is conceived by analogy with the familiar tragedy of the commons, to which commonsense morality does provide a solution. In the tragedy of the commons, the pursuit of private self-interest leads a collection of individuals to a result that is contrary to the interest of all of them (like over-grazing the commons or over-fishing the ocean). If they learn to limit their individual self-interest by agreeing to follow certain rules and sticking to them, the commons will not be destroyed and they will all do well. As Greene puts it, commonsense morality requires that we sometimes put Us ahead of Me; but the same disposition also leads us to put Us ahead of Them.
Six months of daily shooting of over 250 skeletons at the Museum of Natural History in Paris as well as 4 other locations in France. From the smallest to the biggest vertebrate, isolated in front of a black background, Patrick Gries presents these skeletons as sculptures. This series of stark black-and-white photographs offers an atypical approach to viewing natural science and forces us to reconsider the boundaries between artistic and scientific objects. Spectacular, mysterious, elegant, or grotesque, vertebrate skeletons are objects of art, while they carry within them the traces of several billion years of evolution.
The book Evolution from Editions Xavier Barral/Paris, in which more than two hundred fifty of Patrick Gries' photographs are accompanied with text written by scientist and documentarian Dr Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu. The result is a powerful pairing that profoundly illustrates how we came to be what we are. Evolution steps beyond the debate and presents the undeniable truth of Darwin's theory, showing through skeletons both obscure and commonplace, but always intriguing, the process by which life has transformed itself, again and again.
Jane Mulkerrins in The Telegraph:
In her airy, elegant apartment, slap-bang in the centre of SoHo in New York, Amy Tan is explaining the squirm-inducing difficulty of writing sex scenes. “I was so worried people would think they were corny, or a reflection of my own sex life,” the author confesses with a slightly bashful smile. “And I started this book long before that Fifty Shades of Grey came out.” She shakes her head in horror at the notion of her novels being compared with that “mummy porn” hit. But Tan’s latest book, The Valley of Amazement, is set partly in a courtesan house in early-20th-century Shanghai – where women were working as prostitutes and mistresses – so the novel inevitably involves a fair amount of bedroom hoopla, and she deliberated, not simply over the deeds but over the language used to describe them. “I was determined to put certain words in there, words that I thought courtesans really would have used,” she tells me, in her soft, slightly sultry voice. “I didn’t want to be too coy, and I thought words like 'enter’ were a little pedestrian, but I was worried that 'f—’ and 'c—’ might be repulsive to some people.”
It’s more than a little incongruous to hear Tan, a poised, polite 61-year-old author of intelligent popular fiction, talking like a trucker. Her first novel, The Joy Luck Club, comprising 16 interlocking stories about four Chinese immigrant women and their American-born daughters, was on The New York Times bestseller list for 77 weeks and has been made into a Hollywood film. Her five subsequent novels, including The Kitchen God’s Wife and The Bonesetter’s Daughter, have been wildly successful too, translated into more than 35 languages, and she’s also written children’s books and non-fiction. The American-born daughter of Chinese immigrant parents, Tan is credited with sparking the trend for fiction that explores ethnic identity. Her books are set against sweeping historical backdrops; part of the difficulty with her latest work, she says, was that no one had conducted any serious research into courtesan houses of that era.