June 2011/Second Week

¶ We would not mention the Anthony Weiner matter at all if it were not for a scourging denunciation of everyone who has drawn attention to and from it by Glenn Greenwald. (Salon; via 3 Quarks Daily)

On some level, I find the behavior of the obviously loathsome Andrew Breitbart preferable; at least he’s honest about his motive:  he hates Democrats and liberals and wants sadistically to destroy them however he can.  It’s the empty, barren, purse-lipped busybodies who cannot stay out of other adults’ private and sexual lives — while pretending to be elevated  — that are the truly odious villains here.

This story is about the lamentable fact that there is a story, and for that Mr Weiner is not responsible. To say that he “should have known” that scandal might ensue when he yielded to erotic (but disembodied) temptation is inhumanly hypocritical. ¶ An amazingly moving and calmly vivisecting nonfictional-auto-Bildungsroman by Irish writer Brian Dillon. An early fascination with Roland Barthes misled him into a standard academic career, but it was Barthes who eventually rescued him. A long, beautiful read. (via paperpools)

But I did start to notice something about Barthes that I hadn’t before, or that perhaps had not occurred to me since I was seventeen: he was not really a scholar or a theorist, he was a writer.

¶ Whether it turns a penny or not, we can only applaud the establishment in London of the New College of the Humanities, intended, according to its founder-director, A C Grayling, to “bridge the C P Snow gap” between the “two cultures” of letters and science. For this to work, the pedagogy of mathematics will have to be reconceived for those without a natural aptitude — which ought to be the purpose of education anyway, but rarely is. (Brainiac) ¶ Rob Horning’s much-linked essay at n + 1, “The Accidental Bricoleurs,” does not impress us as a reasoned appraisal of “fast fashion” and social-network self-rebranding. “Neoliberalism” hulks in the corner like a criminal mastermind’s thuggish henchman, but the real malefactors are those who tell ordinary people that they have the right to be no more critical and attentive than they’re inclined to be. ¶ We’re all familiar by now with Anders Ericsson’s 10,000 hours rule, which not only claims that ten thousand hours of practice will make a virtuoso or an expert out of anyone but also that inborn talent is not a factor. The last part is deeply counterintuitive. Can it be tested? Christopher Chabris, co-author of The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us, outlines the difficulties of implementing a viable test for Scientific American. (via Arts Journal) ¶ The amazingly polymathic career of Erez Lieberman Aiden, co-developer of Culturomics and also the man who figured out that DNA folds in fractal globules first conjectured by an Italian mathematician in the 1890s. Ed Yong is so enthusiastic that we’re afraid he might have had to invent Aiden if he hadn’t actually existed. (Not Exactly Rocket Science)

¶ Felix Salman palpates a bubble, and decides that it’s probably not in canine umbrella stands, reminiscent as these might be of the days of Dennis Kozlowski.

¶ At The New York Review of Ideas, Elizabeth Vulaj interviews Jane Austen Education author William Deresiewicz, who points out an aspect of Austen’s writing that we much admire even though we never noticed it (that’s why): no metaphors. ¶ We absolutely do not condone the stealing of books, even from apathetic WaldenBooks outlets where the “ books were needed to take up the rest of the retail space, because there weren’t enough magazines.” (Nice try!) But we enjoyed reading how John Brandon became a reader, and we rejoiced that when he finally did get busted it wasn’t for book theft. (The Awl) ¶ At The Rumpus, Kyle Minor and Justin Taylor discuss A Heaven of Others and its author, Joshua Cohen, who also wrote Witz. We’re not convinced that we’d find these books anything but a trial to read (although we’re intrigued by the idea that the book reads as though it was written in a hurry, and was in fact read in a hurry by Kyle), but the conversation is interesting. ¶ At Jewcy, Adam Wilson interviews Paris Review editor Lorin Stein about being -Ish. (via The Morning News)

When I was a kid I wanted to have a bar mitzvah just so we [Stein and his stepfather] could have that in common. That’s how I discovered pretty much the one thing my four parents agreed about—the essential badness of this idea.

¶ Also -Ish: Arundhati Roy, daughter of a Bengal tea-planter and a  the daughter of a wealthy Christian family from Kerala. We’re aware that Roy is a prize-winning novelist and committed opponent of the glitzification of India, but there’s more than a whiff, in Stephen Moss’s interview, of Hemingway’s Lady Brett. (Guardian; via 3 Quarks Daily) ¶ The Internet Archive, cognizant of the material nature of digital storage, seeks to store one copy of every book that it scans in refitted shipping containeers. (via MetaFilter) ¶ James Kwak unpacks that right-wing shibboleth, “regulatory uncertainty,” booming from the wingnut echo-chambers but without real-world substance. (The Baseline Scenario) ¶ At Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrrok points to the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics on farm animals as a dangerous facilitator of bacterial gene transfers occuring faster than we can combat them. Denmark has found it to be unnecessary as well.

New: ¶ At Ironic Sans, David Friedman proposes .ugh domains, for people who are sick & tired &c, and ingeniously forbids the owner of from owning CelebrityN.ugh. (via The Morning News)

Have a Look: ¶ Christoph Niemann at the Venice Biennale. Not shown: missing luggage. (NYT) ¶ Manhattan in Motion @ Mnémoglyphes.

Noted: ¶ “Couple Forecloses on Bank of America — And Wins” @ GOOD. ¶ Yves Smith: “Is Facebook Foreclosure Coming to the US?” (Naked Capitalism) ¶ Jeff Martin sees Tree of Life at an Oklahoma preview, with the filmmaker’s 99 year-old mother, Irene, in attendance. (The Millions)