Gleanings: February 21, 2012

Spirit of a Racer in a Siberian Husky’s Blood

Winnie’s breed does not have royal roots, but her lineage is fierce. It dates to what some consider the finest feat in dog-and-human history, a 1925 race to deliver lifesaving diphtheria serum to icebound Nome, Alaska. The event gripped the nation and later became an inspiration for the Iditarod race.

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War of 1812 important because it kept out U.S. politics – and Snooki

Americans see it as a war that produced their national anthem. Canadians see it as a war which saved them from American assimilation and preserved them from American politics, gun laws and shared citizenship with Snooki of the Jersey Shore

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The Mysteries of the Suicide Tourist

The glamour of New York can play a role. Just as the city’s glittering, outsize reputation attracts many people for happy reasons, it attracts others for tragic ones. People who are suicidal may want to die in a way that gets them attention they felt they never got when they were alive, says Herbert Hendin, a New York–based psychiatrist and the president of Suicide Prevention International. By this logic, New York can be the perfect stage.

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n+1: Listening to Books

I listened to it running by the Charles River with earbuds in my ears, and three years later I still associate certain spots along the Charles with scenes from the novel’s Dorlcote Mill. I also remember exactly where along the Weeks Footbridge Lucy Deane marveled at how beautiful Maggie Tulliver looks in shabby clothes. I think of it whenever I pass that spot, which means I think of it most days.

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Edward Luttwak reviews ‘The Iliad by Homer’ translated by Stephen Mitchell · LRB 23 February 2012

At the beginning of January, in the bookshop of Terminal 2 at San Francisco airport, I looked for a translation of the Iliad – not that I really expected to find one. But there were ten: one succinct W.H.D. Rouse prose translation and one Robert Graves, in prose and song, both in paperback; two blank verse Robert Fagles in solid covers; one rhythmic Richmond Lattimore with a lengthy new introduction; and three hardback copies of the new Stephen Mitchell translation, with refulgent golden shields on the cover and several endorsements on the back, of which the most arresting is by Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not a Gadget: ‘The poetry rocks and has a macho cast to it, like rap music.’

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Picasso’s Guernica in a car showroom

“They didn’t know what the hell else they could do to make people listen and understand, but they thought this might help, and so they did it with great conviction.”

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Contraception’s Con Men by Garry Wills

Contraception is not even a religious matter. Nowhere in Scripture or the Creed is it forbidden. Catholic authorities themselves say it is a matter of “natural law,” over which natural reason is the arbiter—and natural reason, even for Catholics, has long rejected the idea that contraception is evil. More of that later; what matters here is that contraception is legal, ordinary, and accepted even by most Catholics. To say that others must accept what Catholics themselves do not is bad enough. To say that President Obama is “trying to destroy the Catholic Church” if he does not accept it is much, much worse.

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E-books Can’t Burn by Tim Parks

Literature is made up of words. They can be spoken or written. If spoken, volume and speed and accent can vary. If written, the words can appear in this or that type-face on any material, with any impagination. Joyce is as much Joyce in Baskerville as in Times New Roman. And we can read these words at any speed, interrupt our reading as frequently as we choose. Somebody who reads Ulysses in two weeks hasn’t read it any more or less than someone who reads it in three months, or three years.

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A Boy Who Was ‘Like a Flower’ – Anthony Shadid’s Pulitzer Prize reporting

If the Americans are intent on liberation, why are innocent people dying? If they want to attack the government, why do bombs fall on civilians? How can they have such formidable technology and make such tragic mistakes?

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Why libraries matter

We have amazing potential power, but without concerted effort I’m afraid it will be wasted. It will look better to save 10 dollars a year per person in taxes instead of funding community computer workshops, and childhood literacy programs, and community gardens. All the while we play desperate catch-up, trying to get a hold on ebooks, and liscensing out endless sub-quality software for meeting room reservations and computer sign-ups and all this other rentier software capitalism instead of developing free and open source solutions and providing small systems with the expertise to use them. Our amazing power is squandered as we cut our staff, fail to attract skilled and diverse talent, and act as a band aid to the mounting social ills caused by slash and burn governance in the name of low taxes and some nebulous idea of freedom that seems to equate with living in a good society but not paying your share for it.

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Another March to War? | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone

We have a similar gentleman’s code, a “Westernized industrial power” code if you will, that operates the same way. In other words, our newspapers and TV stations may blather on a thousand times a day about attacking Iran and bombing its people, but if even one Iranian talks about fighting back, he is being “aggressive” and “threatening”; we can impose sanctions on anyone, but if the sanctioned country embargoes oil shipments to Europe in response, it’s being “belligerent,” and so on.

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Dining After ‘Downton Abbey’: Why British Food Was So Bad For So Long : The Salt : NPR

Plenty of working-class Brits were domestic servants back then. When World War I came, a lot of these skilled servants — and their masters — marched off to the trenches. Many never returned.

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Reclaiming a Sense of the Sacred – Marilynne Robinson

There is a great difference, in fiction and in life, between knowing someone and knowing about someone. When a writer knows about his character, he is writing for plot. When he knows his character, he is writing to explore, to feel reality on a set of nerves somehow not quite his own.

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Cormac McCarthy, Quantum Copy Editor

The novelist’s corrections appear to be more literary than scientific. In addition to suggested some rephrasing, Mr. Krauss, said, Mr. McCarthy “made me promise he could excise all exclamation points and semicolons, both of which he said have no place in literature.” (A quick digital search through Mr. McCarthy’s “Border Trilogy” and several other novels finds no examples of the offending punctuation.)

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Harvard’s Liberal-Arts Failure Is Wall Street’s Gain

What Wall Street figured out is that colleges are producing a large number of very smart, completely confused graduates. Kids who have ample mental horsepower, incredible work ethics and no idea what to do next. So the finance industry takes advantage of that confusion, attracting students who never intended to work in finance but don’t have any better ideas about where to go.

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