Wednesday, June 30, 2021
The problem arises when this fantasy is mounted as an upbeat, tidy time capsule, allowing audiences to ogle a version of America that never existed. Ultimately, "The Music Man" sets forth a sanitized, insular and very white America — a vision regularly exploited by a recent president (who gained a following with scare tactics and sold a "think system" of his own) to stoke racial fears and pit Americans against one another. It asks audiences to cheer for yet another romanticized fraud.
I don’t think the problem arises for most people, who understand that it is fiction, a romance, not a sociopolitical tract.
In “The Reason for the Darkness of the Night” (available June 15), Tresch emphasizes how much Poe infuses scientific discourse into his most fantastical imaginings. For example, in “A Descent Into the Maelstrom,” a sailor, whose boat has been sucked into a gigantic whirlpool, rather improbably saves himself by thinking like a physicist: He observes that cylindrical objects fell more slowly into the whirling vortex than other objects of the same size, so he quickly lashes himself to a barrel to escape from a watery grave.
Tennyson uses the episode as a kind of metaphor for complete resignation: the feeling that maybe it’s better to surrender, disengage from the world and its troubles, and live mainly for rest and mindless pleasure.
A key finding of the report is that even with the willingness of audiences to move to digital spaces for arts and cultural programming during the pandemic, many cultural organizations lack capacity and the resources to adequately support the growing needs of tech-centered artists and their audiences. At the same time, these artists have demonstrated their unique ability to respond creatively to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic by engaging with audiences and responding to calls for greater equity and inclusion.
Jane Austen, like many authors in the pantheon of literature, has fallen into disfavor in recent years, amid concerns that western classics perpetuate ideas of “white supremacy” and in the wake of global “Black Lives Matter” protests.
About 50 years ago, I copyedited a book called Privilege and Creative Destruction: The charles River Bridge Case by the late Stanley I. Kutler. It is about how eminent domain came to be. That case was settled by the Supreme Court also. Justice Story delivered a notable dissent. It is a very good book — probably the cleanest manuscript I ever edited — and it can still be found. Very relevant these days.
The critical race theory (CRT) movement is a collection of activists and scholars interested in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power. The movement considers many of the same issues that conventional civil rights and ethnic studies discourses take up, but places them in a broader perspective that includes economics, history, context, group- and self-interest, and even feelings and the unconscious. Unlike traditional civil rights, which embraces incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.
Religion used to be the opium of the people. To those suffering humiliation, pain, illness, and serfdom, religion promised the reward of an after life. But now, we are witnessing a transformation, a true opium of the people is the belief in nothingness after death, the huge solace, the huge comfort of thinking that for our betrayals, our greed, our cowardice, our murders, we are not going to be judged.
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
Modern literature is full of difficult, challenging artists who toiled in obscurity until the public caught up with them and made them famous. Sondheim presents the much rarer case of an artist who started out at the heart of the establishment and moved away from it as his work became more ambitious and complex.
Normally, judicial rulings are based on the highest standard of evidence. But I am not able to read the supporting documents in Portuguese, and I cannot tell what procedures were used in gathering and weighing evidence. But my first instinct would be to believe a judicial ruling over figures gathered by politicians and the bureaucrats that report to them (and who, in many cases, have seen their powers vastly enhanced by the panic generated over COVID).
So, ask yourself this: Paul claimed to have seen and talked with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Would anything less than an actual event have so totally and completely changed him from determined and deadly opponent of Christianity to the new faith’s most devoted advocate?
Her new novel Antiquities, set in 1949, is a haunting chronicle of an old, embittered man named Lloyd Wilkinson Petrie. As one of the remaining trustees of the defunct Temple Academy of Boys, he has been asked to write a memoir of his time at the boarding school which has stirred up disturbing memories. He visits his late wife’s grave once a month, but never more. He is drawn to his secretary for solace. His son has decamped to California to pursue a flagging career in filmmaking. Their intermittent, empty phone conversations disquiet him.
Thoreau is now widely regarded as a nature writer and political activist, but a close look at both his life and works suggests an inherent performative quality. Take Walden and “Civil Disobedience,” two of his most famous pieces. He displayed his rejection of industrialization and materialism by living by the lake for two years, two months and two days; after being confined for one night in a Concord jail, he wrote “Civil Disobedience,” which embodied his resistance to slavery and the Mexican-American War. As Laura Dassow Walls beautifully puts it, Thoreau, known for his endeavors in “the experiment of life,” aspired “to turn life itself, even the simplest acts of life, into a form of art.” However, this performance artist side also makes him controversial.
Read today, A Handful of Dust may lack some of the obvious pleasures of other major works by Waugh. It has neither the acidic humor of Scoop (1938) nor the resplendent solemnity of Brideshead Revisited (1945). But at its center is a character whose condition, if not his circumstances, mirrors our own: the quintessential upper-class Englishman, Tony Last, who with his wife Brenda and young son John Andrew, leads a life in retreat from a hostile, declining society.
Monday, June 28, 2021
Though he wrote for Sid Caesar throughout the 1950s and beyond, Mel’s big break came with the release of the “2000 Year Old Man” in 1960, recorded with his friend Carl Reiner. In it, Reiner plays the straight man to Brooks’ ancient storyteller, the twist being that the ancient man speaks like a Lower East Side loxmonger circa 1925. Part of what makes the conceit hilarious is that the 2000 Year Old Man’s responses to Reiner’s questions don’t often reflect the answer an ancient Israelite might give, but rather the answer that your great-uncle Sauly would. On Ed Sullivan in 1961, he waxes rhapsodic about the greatness of wax paper, “mankind’s greatest development.” When asked about the discovery of space he says, “That was good. That was nice. Finding space was cute.”
So they’ve been making the same prediction for a quarter of a century, just moving the date ahead when necessary.
I’ve been reading Stevens for well over half a century. He is one of my favorite poets. Reading the Collected Poems many years ago it struck me that Stevens was engaged over the years in a search for faith — a living faith, not a religious fiction. He was known to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral during his trips to New York City and just sit there meditating. I believe the story of his deathbed reception into the Catholic Church. It seems perfectly logical to me.
… a great deal of circumstantial archaeological and genetic evidence is accumulating that some earlier African lineages related to modern humans expanded out into eastern Eurasia before our own expansion. Artifacts in China and Sumatradating to before 60,000 years ago seem suspiciously modern, and genetic analysis of Siberian Neanderthals dating to 120,000 years ago suggests admixture from populations related to modern humans. It is still possible that Homo longi descends from one of these early populations. Only DNA can establish this for a fact, but most older fossil remains do not yield genetic material, and this skull is old enough that only perfect conditions would have yielded DNA.
Sunday, June 27, 2021
The earliest translators of these texts, such as Pope and Dryden, valued good poetry over literal accuracy. In the nineteenth century, academic philologists took over the field and tipped the balance toward painful literal accuracy and against the pleasures of poetry. Due to the sentimentality about Augustan Rome, translation of the Aeneid and other texts also suffered from avoidance of literal accuracy whenever it cast Rome in a bad light—so rape became romance, slaves became servants.
The fact that strangers will soon be spending the night in their home doesn't bother them at all. In fact, that's what they hoped for, especially after reactions like this from a German tourist, Rebecca: "Oh my God, coming to stay in a Frank Lloyd Wright house? That's like a dream come true!"
The university in a prepared statement last week said the “was developed by students” and was “in no no way an accounting of terms that Brandeis students, faculty or staff are prohibited from using or must substitute instead.”The students who “developed” it must be among the dumbest in the school.
“After a year of virtual learning and having a front-row seat in the classroom, parents are waking up to the increasingly political climate in their children’s schools,” Alleigh Marré, president of the Free to Learn Coalition, explained in a press release. “As we grow our partnerships with parent and community groups, the Free to Learn Coalition will provide a platform and tailored resources to those ready to take on political activism by school boards and administrators.”
The extraordinary fossil has been named a new human species, Homo longi or “Dragon man”, by Chinese researchers, although other experts are more cautious about the designation.
There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. (Genesis, 6-4]
Saturday, June 26, 2021
In Conversation with Brad Listi on Otherppl.
So I finished Monster, exhausted myself by Dunne’s account of all the tireless work that had gone into Up Close and Personal. Then I watched the movie. It was crap. Plastic. Riotously inauthentic, with zero resemblance to real human life. It felt as if it had been written by people who had never experienced human life but had only viewed a few hundred of the most contrived movies ever made. Watching it, I felt as if I’d seen every bit of it before and always knew exactly what was going to happen next.
Friday, June 25, 2021
Between Two Millstones is not a conventional, tidy literary memoir. It is too episodic and digressive for that. Solzhenitsyn’s style tends to be bluntly conversational, surprisingly slangy even in translation, never striving after elegance. Seldom has the act of writing been so viscerally described. His prose shares nothing with social science, academic history, or American autobiography, and his books, both novels and nonfiction, are notoriously difficult to judge by strictly aesthetic standards.
"The Holy Grail has been to look back far enough that you would be able to see the very first generation of stars and galaxies. And now we have the first convincing evidence of when the Universe was first bathed in starlight."
Shainblum's skill and experience shine through in this latest piece, with him expertly guiding viewers through different environments. This includes sweeping aerial views of mountains, beams of light streaming through the clouds, and the sun setting over placid waters.
You don’t have to take my word for it. The Anatomy is widely acclaimed as a classic. Laurence Sterne stole chunks from it for The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. Samuel Johnson said it was the only book that got him out of bed early just to read it. Keats adored it. Borges’s Library of Babel is prefaced with lines from it. Samuel Beckett was a fan, and Anthony Burgess thought it one of the great comic works of the world. Welcoming the paperback edition in 2001, the critic Nick Lezard called it the best book ever written and the book to end all books. More recently, the publisher John Mitchell described it as some of the greatest prose from the greatest era of English prose.
While the rituals were initially concerned with Demeter’s imparting gifts of fertility and the cyclical nature of creation, over time they focused more on immortality. Of the Mysteries, the poet Pindar (498 BCE – 436 BCE) opined: “.” To be sure, the main focus of the Mysteries was the happy afterlife initiates were promised.
Thursday, June 24, 2021
Polls regularly show a gulf between the values of many American Catholics and the teachings of the Catholic Church. For instance, more than two-thirds of American Catholics support legalized same-sex marriage, according to a 2020 Gallup survey. Fifty-six percent of American Catholics agree with Biden and Pelosi, backing abortion being legal in most or all cases, per a 2019 Pew Research Center survey.
If you don’t agree with what the Catholic Church teaches, find another church. I do believe what the Church teaches and I don’t care whether those teachings are fashionable.
We believe the separation of church and state allows for our faith to inform our public duties and best serve our constituents.
Did McAfee really kill himself? He certainly didn’t think so.
Latinx is at war with the Spanish language, with the Sierra Madre and her favorite, her first-born son, Macho. Latinx is at war with centuries of romance and sexual chauvinism and humor.
“Joan Atkinson points out that Steinbeck almost exclusively wrote his letters in longhand with a pencil. ‘I could not imagine that John Steinbeck would have had a typist or secretary from the office sign a letter like that for him. As personal as this subject was, it seems strange,’ she said.
‘It don’t take school stuff to help a fella play ball,’ observed Joe, though the accounts of Jackson pathetically pretending to read menus and newspapers can soften even the most horsehide-hard heart.
Wednesday, June 23, 2021
Whatever the U.S. Catholic bishops do regarding this document on the Eucharist, I’m grateful we’re having this conversation. Asked about it by a reporter, Biden responded that it was a “private matter.” But given that Biden is open about being Catholic and also open about his pro-abortion position (one which I’d argue goes against science as well as Catholicism), the matter is rightly public.
White people are protected in the same way that black people are by civil rights laws, she said. “We’re not a country where it’s acceptable to bully and shame people because of the color of their skin.”
Where did she get her degree, out of a Cracker Jacks box?
The epigraph page is like a ceremonial gate ushering us into the realm of the author with his or her beloved quotation from a great mind or celebrated scamp that perfectly reflects, or distills, the essence of what follows.
We don’t know how Bristol came across these four exquisite stanzas by Dominican-American poet Rhina Espaillat. That detail would be fascinating to discover, but Bristol died in 1979 at age fifty-six after an extended illness, and Espaillat only recalls a brief exchange of permission letters from 1953. She would have been twenty-one at the time.
One of the things that always needs to be estimated in any individual consultation is probability. What is the probability that the breast lump is cancer? What is the probability that the fever is due to a serious bacterial infection? When faced with these questions, I think most doctors are more like an experienced chess player than a robot. They act on a feeling, not on a conscious weighing of probabilities. Doctors with a nervous disposition therefore order more tests and prescribe more antibiotics, while those with a more relaxed disposition order fewer tests and prescribe fewer antibiotics.
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
In September, to mark his centennial year, Mack Avenue Music Group and Octave Music will issue “Liberation in Swing,” an impressive boxed set of 189 Garner tracks. An accompanying coffee-table book samples his surprising visual art and offers insightful essays by singer Cécile McLorin Salvant, drummer Terri Lynne Carrington and Thelonious Monk biographer Robin D.G. Kelley. This lavish package looks to be a contender for jazz gift of the year.
“In this letter, the authors declared no competing interests. Some readers have questioned the validity of this disclosure, particularly as it relates to one of the authors, Peter Daszak,” the update states.
Books do furnish a room, as the English novelist Anthony Powell put it, but a living library is determined to look like a couch the cat scratches.
My correspondent writes that she sees people driving around on their own in their cars, wearing masks and gloves. So do I. It is a sign – one of many – of the state of irrational fear to which the government's panic reaction to Covid has reduced much of the population
“The dead don’t get around / Much anymore,” the speaker in Donald Justice’s “Nostalgia and Complaint of the Grandparents” laments. A great-grandfather himself, at ninety-four my father doesn’t get around much anymore either.
Monday, June 21, 2021
It is a common experience—and well established experimentally—that music can engage us emotionally in a compelling manner. The mechanisms underlying these experiences are receiving increasing scrutiny. However, the extent to which other domains of aesthetic experience can similarly elicit strong emotions is unknown. Using psychophysiology, neuroimaging and behavioral responses, we show that recited poetry can act as a powerful stimulus for eliciting peak emotional responses, including chills and objectively measurable goosebumps that engage the primary reward circuitry. Importantly, while these responses to poetry are largely analogous to those found for music, their neural underpinnings show important differences, specifically with regard to the crucial role of the nucleus accumbens. We also go beyond replicating previous music-related studies by showing that peak aesthetic pleasure can co-occur with physiological markers of negative affect. Finally, the distribution of chills across the trajectory of poems provides insight into compositional principles of poetry.