March Reading 2012
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If you are a fan of E.O. Wilson, Qebo, you will love this article. The science part was beyond me but
the story about the science wars is fascinating. Wilson sounds like a real rascal of a fellow!
Shouts and Murmurs is as dreary as usual..I don't get why anyone thinks that stuff is amusing. It
always reads like an inside joke.
be more logical, although I wonder if the time is used for vacation or for catching up.
I think the double issue thing has been going on for awhile now, they do one or two fiction issues, a humor issue, finance, style, food..... most of them have a 'theme'. Tina Brown might have been the one to start that. I'm sure it is mostly a cost-saving issue.
A solid NYer all around, with a fairly wide net:
-a governor who over-stepped,
-a scientist still surprising everyone with new ideas at 82 -I'm leaving this one to Q to write up!-. I should at least hazard though that the basic idea sounds reaasonable to an interested layman - he and his group aren't saying the kinship idea is wrong, only that it is a bit more complex, no?
-a glimpse of the People Who Matter at a Gathering Of People Who Matter .... the writer did witness at the very end one of the reasons for the event -- a physicist and software person meeting and realizing they might have something to offer each other. "Usually, you have to find the guy who can get you to the guy who can get you to the guy who can make a decision. Here we are several levels closer to the decider."
-a Russian arms dealer.... a slightly odd story in that the fellow, Viktor Bout, is one of these opaque people. Is he a total sociopath or what? The writer wasn't going to speculate and neither am I. I did read with interest because the father of someone I know is actually one of those undercover sort of Special Ops people in Colombia up to who-knows-what, although nothing in this particular story made me think he was involved in it, still I always read referencing Colombia.
- I was not that wowed by the Munro although it was certainly a pleasure to read. Probably if I started writing it up I would end up wowed by it. That is how Alice Munro usually hits me. Subtle but oh so artful.
-Scanned the review of the latest Pagels, demystifying the Book of Revelation -- I've read and enjoyed The Gnostic Gospels some while ago, she's a terrifically lucid writer. Her ideas make sense to me, but I suppose will scandalize many!
Gopnik writes, as he is winding it up: The truth is that punitive, hysterical religions thrive, while soft, mystical ones must hide their scriptures somewhere in the hot sand." -Glanced at the write up about Cindy Sherman but couldn't really absorb anything.
The poem 'Storm' by Ellen Bryant Voight is wonderful.
Aaack! Pressure! It's within my grasp to finish God's Philosophers this evening, so I'll be _free_!!! to move on...
* William Finnegan re Scott Walker: Nothing new here.
* Jonah Lehrer re altruism: Darwin's theory of evolution, with natural selection favoring the most fit individuals, did not account for altruism, sacrifice of self for the sake of another. 100 years later, William Hamilton proposed "inclusive fitness theory", based on a simple mathematical description: r (relatedness) * B (benefit) > C (cost). Altruism preserves genes. E. O. Wilson was smitten by the idea, which seemed to explain the behavior of ants and other eusocial insects. But decades of research raised doubts about the correlation between eusociality and haplodiploidy. Enter Martin Nowak, a mathematical biologist and directory of Harvard's Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, who was contacted by Corina Tarnita, a mathematician seeking tangible applications. Nowak put Tarnita to work reading papers on inclusive fitness, and what she found was fuzziness. The B and C of an altruistic action are not so easy to determine. Meanwhile Nowak found Wilson. "During our first conversation, Wilson told me that he always assumed the math of inclusive fitness must be very strong, because the biology was quite weak. And I told him the opposite. I said I always assumed the biology was solid, because the math was very obscure." The three discussed the central issue: Although eusociality is an extremely successful strategy, it is also rare. Why? They proposed an alternative to inclusive fitness. Eusociality appears after a series of preadaptations: a cohesive group that may occur if the daughters don't leave the nest, construction of a defensible nest, feeding of larvae and division of labor. Computer simulations demonstrate the advantages of eusociality, but also the barriers to its evolution. In 2010, they published "The Evolution of Eusociality" in Nature, and immediately it was controversial, e.g. http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/big-dust-up-about-kin-selecti..., http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2011/03/23/inclusive-fitness-return-to-th.... Some of the trouble is that mathematicians view an equation as a precise literal description, and biologists view it as a succinct expression of a principle and framework for investigation. The New Yorker article too is criticized, e.g. http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/new-yorker-article-on-the-kin.... Wilson has been through controversy before, notably after the publication of Sociobiology. It'll be interesting to see how this shakes out. Nothing wrong with an occasional reassessment of assumptions. I am not offhand seeing why this is would be an either / or deal; life is messy and complicated with many factors in play simultaneously. I have Martin Nowak's book Super Cooperators, and it's rising in my consciousness...
* Nick Paumgarten re Davos: Surely there's more to it than the schmoozing?
* Nicholas Schmidle re weapons trafficker Viktor Bout: I got to the second page and gave up.
* Adam Gopnik re Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics by Elaine Pagels: "Revelation, far from being meant as a hallucinatory prophecy, is actually a coded account of events that were happening at the time John was writing. It's essentially a political cartoon." A useful summary, and in a world of infinite time I'd read the book. This is not such a world. I read The Gnostic Gospels oh, 25-30 years ago, and remember it not at all.
* Emily Nussbaum re "The Good Wife": Would've skipped but noticed the "technology" tagline. Still, more drama than I care for these days.
* Briefly Noted: Life Upon These Shores by Henry Louis Gates is of interest.
Skipped fiction, theater, cinema.
This is a beautiful debut novel by an interesting writer (see her on You Tube). My review and others are here at LT. Do read the book, it is truly worth your time.
-it does appear that the Rep. party is in a shambles. The only Q. is what they will come up with at their convention - phoenix from the ashes? or more self-destructive mayhem. Stay tuned.
-shouts and murmurs has been steadily unfunny for months now
-H5N1. Articles like this scare me to death. As they should. However, the question of research vs being so fearful you put yr. head in the sand; my instinct is to forbid it, but I am guessing that the research should be done, that that holds more hope in it.
-Read feebly about Turkey. I am aware that Ertogan has been gradually 'cracking down' and that he is conservative (read repressive of women's rights etcetera). It's a dangerous game he's playing.
-Christian Marclay. I've heard a bit about him, eager to read more. Can't wait to see some of his video ouevre "The Clock" a 24-hour piece that sounds fascinating. I've sat through hours of Warhol when I was a young thing and didn't know any better.....
-The Antrim felt like a return to the bleak pared-down writing of the late seventies, but with less bite and more inconsequence.
-glanced at the rest, although I lingered over the "Story of Lawrence vs Texas" - clearly a large supreme court battle is looming. What can one do about the isolation of the court's members???? Powell saying to his (gay) aide that he didn't think he knew any homosexuals. There are 12 of them so........... statistically........ ?
The Maxine Kumin poem, Truth is worth the read!
You've been known to zip through several per week.
I've finished March 12 and March 19. About halfway through March 26, the style issue so lots to skip. I'll record by the end of the month.
-Presidential rhetoric - the point being, once you're in, (mostly) nobody listens to a think you say.
-a personal history piece by David Owen about various bodily injuries received as a child. A sweet piece. I enjoy these generally.
-the rich avoiding their taxes via residency hoo-ha. Well, I know I should care, I should be indignant - we're talking 5% of possible uncollected taxes..... maybe I am indignant?
-Argentina's lost children. Horrible -- I've read about this elsewhere, shades of Margaret Atwood! - Keeping a pregnant woman until she gives birth, throwing her out of a plane giving their children to childless bureaucrats etc. What shocked me the most was that the Catholic Church in Argentina sanctioned this at that time.
-The story was painfully good - a perfect rendering of the contradictions of my mother and mother-in-law's generation vis a vis their daughters (career vs marriage) vs. their sons. Total hypocrisy. This is a must read. My mother-in-law had a bit more style, no Jenny Craig for her, but otherwise..... I was lucky in that my own mother while she herself was a bundle of contradictory behaviours, was remarkably without an agenda for us girls.
-a book is out on Mitt Romney's business career...... nothing there surprised me, although the anecdote about the dog is a bit chilling. That is hyper-wasp behaviour, like emotionally numb. Not to mention dumb.
-The director of Shoah, Claude Lanzmann
And that's a wrap.
As expected, I zipped through this.
-did not read about Rihanna
-the celebrity philanthropist. Well, good for you!
-Shouts was actually very funny -- a parody of the superior french women vs. american women.....
-Vegas interiors - a total rethink into what gets people to stick around and spend money and not even mind. Sort of, well, duh!
-Prada and Schiaparelli compared..... I tried, I tried to read this, and failed. I didn't even know Prada was an actual person! I mean, my pocketbook is an old canvas bag and my dress-up shoes are Dansko's, otherwise it's boots or sneakers or no shoes..... My idea of fashion is to put on earrings with whatever I'm already wearing.......
-A new show called 'Veep' done by an Scottish comedy writer/director -- Elaine from Seinfeld plays the veep - is this blatant advertising or real advance notice of something cool -- I never know anymore....... the entertainment world is so incestuous.
-The Antonya Nelson story was OK - the unreliable narrator deal - by the end you are pretty sure that the narrator is a fabulist.
-last word -- we saw "John Carter" this weekend and didn't give a critical rat's ass about a single thing that annoyed Denby. It was sweetly innocent, very much in the early sci-fi vein, exuberant and silly. You can take kids to it and not die of embarassment or feel you've once again exposed them to horrific violence. Get a grip Denby, the movie wasn't for sophisticated tastes.
26: Maybe I should take a look at the story? Re Argentina, it's the years of searching and the not knowing and the conflicting loyalties of the children that got me.
Me neither. I vaguely skimmed a few paragraphs, saw this tidbit, and decided I'd learned as much as I need to know in life. My dress-up shoes are from Payless, and I have never worn earrings. :-)
I can now report on March 12 and April 2 (I skipped the style issue completely; nothing seemed interesting enough to even start).
Republicans -- ho, hum, not much new here (in ALL senses)
Deadliest virus -- scary, some new info, longer than it needed to be
Turkey -- I had trouble concentrating on this, even though I know Turkey is important
Christian Marclay -- I thought this would be interesting but couldn't get into it; maybe should try again, but I really want to ditch the issue!
Didn't read the story or the art/theater/movie/music reviews
I guess I should start an April thread for the April 2 issue, which I'm happy to say I enjoyed much more!
But that story in the March 19th issue - I think it was exceptionally good.
Some of my best shoes have come from Payless....... ditto Target, but it is a crapshoot..... I don't usually find what I come in looking for, but something else altogether.
* Ryan Lizza re Republicans: We're getting a local dose of these folks shortly...
* Michael Specter re H5N1: Viruses can wreak havoc rapidly. Scientists should proceed with caution.
* Dexter Filkins re Erdogan of Turkey: Read but it didn't stick.
* Daniel Zalewski re Christian Marclay: I did not expect to read this through, but it was fascinating, creating meaning from snippets of time.
* Dahlia Lithwick re Lawrence v. Texas: 2003? Seems it should've been another era.
* Briefly Noted: House of Stone by Anthony Shadid and Rez Life by David Treuer are of interest.
Skipped fiction, art, theater, music, cinema.
* Ezra Klein re presidential rhetoric: When a president speaks, the general public is unpersuaded and the opposing party ratchets up. What's a president to do?
* David Owen re scars: Read a few paragraphs but wasn't drawn in.
* James Stewart re tax avoidance by the rich: Seems more trouble than it's worth.
* Francisco Goldman re orphans of Argentina's Dirty War: Agonizing.
* Lewis Menand re Romney as businessman: The firm is the basic unit of Romneyan analysis.
* Richard Brody re Claude Lanzmann: The making of "Shoah".
Briefly Noted: Clover Adams by Natalie Dykstra is of interest.
Skipped fiction, music, theater, TV, cinema. (Keeping the magazine to try the story...)
Notable: an advertisement for the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction.
John Seabrook re Rihanna: Skipped.
John Colapinto re Trevor Nielson and celebrity philanthropy: I found this kind of creepy.
Jonah Lehrer re Roger Thomas and Las Vegas: An alien world.
Judith Thurman re Prada and Schiaparelli: Skipped.
Ian Parker re "Veep": Skipped.
John Cassidy re The Escape Artists by Noam Scheiber: Could Obama have been a more effective technocrat? Or more creative?
Briefly Noted: Nothing of interest.
Skipped fiction, theater, art, music, cinema.