An avid sports fan can now read Sports Illustrated without learning anything new. In 1997’s The Franchise, Michael MacCambridge’s history of SI, Bill Colson (the top editor from 1996 to 2002) admits that the magazine’s increasing focus on the major sports helped “contribut[e] to the narrowing of interest of the American sports fan.” Sports Illustrated had always, for better or worse, featured stories on chess, bullfighting, darts, and sailing. Even if you didn’t read all those stories on chess and sailing, SI’s implicit message still got through—that sports isn’t just the stuff you see on TV, that a great story is a great story no matter whether it’s about playing quarterback or handling snakes.The magazine no longer has this sort of peripheral vision….The implicit message: Sports is everything you already know about and nothing that gets low ratings.
Illnesses Whose Victims May Not Be Safely Eaten
5. The common cold
6. Hodgkin’s disease
9. Crohn’s disease**
10. Mono (aka mononucleosis, the Epstein-Barr virus, the kissing disease)
14. Herpes (genital or oral)
Illnesses Whose Victims May Be Safely Eaten
1. Color blindness
2. Tourette’s syndrome
3. Alzheimer’s disease
4. Breast, thyroid, liver, and prostate cancers****
11. Muscular dystrophy
13. Type 2 diabetes
14. Parkinson’s disease
* It may be safe to consume a victim of hepatitis if you carefully avoid the liver. ** At one time, it was believed that Crohn’s disease was a genetic disorder and thus its victims were safe to devour. Recent studies, however, suggest that Crohn’s is an infectious environmental bacteria, linked to Johne’s disease, which infects ruminants. If this is correct, victims of Crohn’s may not be safely consumed. *** It may be safe to consume a victim of malaria if the blood is drained and the liver is avoided. **** Victims may not be consumed if cancer was induced by hepatitis virus. ***** Slight chance that these diseases would infect through the mouth/esophagus mucosa before they could be destroyed by the acidity of the stomach. Thus, their victims could not be said to be “safe.”
people who were grave when they might have rejoiced.” — Marilynne Robison, from “Facing Reality”
The deputy mayor of New Delhi, India, fell off his balcony and died Sunday after being attacked by monkeys, his family members say. The city has around 10,000 monkeys, some of which have taken to roaming through government buildings as they steal food and rip apart documents. What should you do if monkeys are picking on you?
EARLIER this year, at a Writers Bloc event in Beverly Hills, Norman Mailer acknowledged that he believed in God. This belief, he explained, was qualified; his vision of the deity was as one who is fallible, far from omnipotent, less a supreme being than a supreme artist of a kind. Noting that his own creations had often gotten the best of him, Mailer said he didn’t see why the same might not be true of God. This was a classic Mailer performance — contrarian, contradictory, brilliant and somehow unsatisfying. At its core was the sense that, for him, God remained a conceptual construct, that he had thought out this position but did not feel it, that he was relying on intellect as opposed to faith. Mailer’s new book, “On God: An Uncommon Conversation,” may best be read in such a context — although, in truth, it’s probably best not read at all.
He believes humanity is near that 1% moment in technological growth. By 2027, he predicts, computers will surpass humans in intelligence; by 2045 or so, we will reach the Singularity, a moment when technology is advancing so rapidly that “strictly biological” humans will be unable to comprehend it. He has plenty more ideas that may seem Woody Allen - wacky in a Sleeper kind of way (virtual sex as good as or better than the real thing) and occasionally downright disturbing à la 2001: A Space Odyssey (computers will achieve consciousness in about 20 years). But a number of his predictions have had a funny way of coming true. Back in the 1980s he predicted that a computer would beat the world chess champion in 1998 (it happened in 1997) and that some kind of worldwide computer network would arise and facilitate communication and entertainment (still happening). His current vision goes way, way past the web, of course. But at least give the guy a hearing. “We are the species that goes beyond our potential,” he says. “Merging with our technology is the next stage in our evolution.”
Overmuch on a calm world, Palinurus,
You must lie naked on some unknown shore.” —Virgil, Aeneid, Book IV
Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
Because I do not hope to know
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again
Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessèd face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice
And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us
Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still.
Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
Whenever I get a package of plain M&Ms, I make it my duty to continue the strength and robustness of the candy as a species. To this end, I hold M&M duels. Taking two candies between my thumb and forefinger, I apply pressure, squeezing them together until one of them cracks and splinters. That is the “loser,” and I eat the inferior one immediately. The winner gets to go another round. I have found that, in general, the brown and red M&Ms are tougher, and the newer blue ones are genetically inferior. I have hypothesized that the blue M&Ms as a race cannot survive long in the intense theater of competition that is the modern candy and snack-food world. Occasionally I will get a mutation, a candy that is misshapen, or pointier, or flatter than the rest. Almost invariably this proves to be a weakness, but on very rare occasions it gives the candy extra strength. In this way, the species continues to adapt to its environment. When I reach the end of the pack, I am left with one M&M, the strongest of the herd. Since it would make no sense to eat this one as well, I pack it neatly in an envelope and send it to M&M Mars, A Division of Mars, Inc., Hackettstown, NJ 17840-1503 U.S.A., along with a 3×5 card reading, “Please use this M&M for breeding purposes.” This week they wrote back to thank me, and sent me a coupon for a free 1/2 pound bag of plain M&Ms. I consider this “grant money.” I have set aside the weekend for a grand tournament. From a field of hundreds, we will discover the True Champion.
[here……I would link you to the “Best of Craig’s List,” where the actual post is to be found, but the Censors at my school have blocked it under “Dating/Relationship.”]
America’s founders likewise, following Locke, were devout theists and gave God a prominent role in politics. See for instance, the Declaration of Independence. However, the God to whom America’s founders appealed — the individual rights granting Nature’s God — arguably was not the Biblical or Christian God. For one, the Biblical God does not grant men unalienable individual rights, certainly not a right to political liberty while the God of the American founding did. Further, on matters of religious toleration, the God of the American founding was not a “jealous” God but granted men an unalienable right to worship, in Jefferson’s words no God or twenty gods. In studying their public and private writings in detail I have concluded that America’s principle founders (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin) were not closet atheists but really did believe in this rational, benevolent, unitarian deity who fit their republican ideals much better than the Biblical God could. The inescapable conclusion is that America does have a political theology; it is just not Christianity. (For more on America’s founding creed, see this article.) Nature’s God was theologically unitarian, universalist (did not eternally damn anyone) syncretist (most or all world religions worshipped Him), partially inspired the Christian Scriptures, and man’s reason was ultimate device for understanding Him. He was not quite the strict Deist God that some secular scholars have made Him out to be. But neither was He the Biblical God. Rather, somewhere in between.
[Jonathan Rowe, via Ross Douthat]
We shall not ever meet them bearded in heaven
Nor sunning themselves among the bald of hell;
If anywhere, in the deserted schoolyard at twilight,
forming a ring, perhaps, or joining hands
In games whose very names we have forgotten.
Come, memory, let us seek them there in the shadows.
Almost intoxicating to see the Nobel committee do something honorable and creditable for a change … It’s as though the long, dreary reign of the forgettable and the mediocre and the sinister had been just for once punctuated by a bright flash of talent. And a flash of 88-year-old talent at that, as if the Scandinavians had guiltily remembered that they let Nabokov and Borges die (yes, die) while they doled out so many of their awards to time-servers and second-raters. Had they let this happen to Doris Lessing as well, eternal shame would have covered them. Harold Bloom might conceivably be right (actually, if it matters, I do think he is right) to say that Lessing hasn’t written much of importance for the last 15 or so years. But that’s not to say that she shouldn’t have received the Nobel laurels 20 years ago, if not sooner. (It was Hemingway who first acidly pointed out that authors tend to get the big prize either too early or too late. In his own case, he compared it with swimming ashore under his own steam and then being hit over the head with a life belt.)
Since the program’s inception, in 1986, the Strand has built scores of imaginary reading rooms, from the prison library in “Oz” to the Barnes & Noble clone in “You’ve Got Mail.” Clients also include window dressers, commercial architects (the Strand furnished each floor in the Library Hotel with a different Dewey decimal category), and people with more shelf space than leisure time. Kelsey Grammer requested all hardback fiction in two of his homes, while Steven Spielberg, who, incidentally, is the director of the new Indiana Jones movie, allowed a wider range (cookbooks, children’s books, volumes on art and film) to penetrate his Hamptons estate. “There have been a lot of biographies on him, so I put those in there, too,” Nancy Bass Wyden, a co-owner of the store, said.
Customers can choose from eighteen basic library styles, for purchase or rental. “Bargain books,” a random selection of hardbacks, is the cheapest, at ten dollars per foot of shelf space. For thirty dollars, clients can customize the color. For seventy-five, they can get a “leather-looking” library, which, as the Strand’s Web site puts it, “is often mistaken for leather.” Despite this emphasis on form over content, McKibben approaches her job more like a librarian than like a decorator. “It’s really just knowing books and knowing what people read,” she said, as she sorted through stacks in her third-floor office. In front of her, a shelf held volumes reserved for a wedding centerpiece (Russell Banks’s “The Darling,” A. N. Wilson’s “The Victorians”). To her left was a rolling cart on which she was building a personal library. “The designers or the clients tell me a little about themselves,” McKibben said, dragging the cart toward her. “This one is for a family.” She pointed out “kid-friendly” books on the Beatles and Charlie Chaplin, and a Dave Eggers volume (“because there are teen-agers in the house”). McKibben spun the cart around to the father’s section. “We’re kind of guessing the character,” she said. “The husband is in finance. He likes the History Channel, the Biography Channel. It’s like my dad, and I know what’s in my dad’s library.” The selections included a biography of John Quincy Adams and a hulking gold volume called “India After Gandhi.”
I won’t tell you everything. Since nothing’s really happening. I represent, moreover, the Eastern European school of discretion: we don’t discuss divorces, we don’t admit depressions. Life proceeds peacefully on all fronts; beyond the window, a gray, exceptionally warm December. [here …and I should probably just learn Polish]
WHEREAS, Despite their monumental success in the music industry, Cheap Trick’s band members still consider the City of Rockford and the State of Illinois to be their home; therefore, be it RESOLVED, BY THE SENATE OF THE NINETY-FIFTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, that we designate April 1 of every year as Cheap Trick Day in the State of Illinois.
[full text of the resolution here]
It is all too easy to laugh at the idea of an atheist power regulating something that, in its eyes, doesn’t exist. However, do we believe in it? When in 2001 the Taliban in Afghanistan destroyed the ancient Buddhist statues at Bamiyan, many Westerners were outraged — but how many of them actually believed in the divinity of the Buddha? Rather, we were angered because the Taliban did not show appropriate respect for the “cultural heritage” of their country. Unlike us sophisticates, they really believed in their own religion, and thus had no great respect for the cultural value of the monuments of other religions.
The significant issue for the West here is not Buddhas and lamas, but what we mean when we refer to “culture.” All human sciences are turning into a branch of cultural studies. While there are of course many religious believers in the West, especially in the United States, vast numbers of our societal elite follow (some of the) religious rituals and mores of our tradition only out of respect for the “lifestyle” of the community to which we belong: Christmas trees in shopping centers every December; neighborhood Easter egg hunts; Passover dinners celebrated by nonbelieving Jews. “Culture” has commonly become the name for all those things we practice without really taking seriously. And this is why we dismiss fundamentalist believers as “barbarians” with a “medieval mindset”: they dare to take their beliefs seriously. Today, we seem to see the ultimate threat to culture as coming from those who live immediately in their culture, who lack the proper distance. [here]
So, I’m standing astride this 548ft crack that that has rather alarmingly appeared in the floor of Tate Modern. I’m with an architect and a couple of builders, and we are examining the crack from a wide variety of angles and sticking our fingers inside and giving it a damn good poke and generally trying very hard indeed to work a few things out. The first is: how on earth did it get here? The second is: could it be dangerous? This being the Tate, we also feel obliged, finally, to consider the possibility that it might be art.
How can the Amish, so forgiving in one context, be so judgmental in another? The answer lies in the distinction between forgiveness and pardon. Forgiveness refers to a victim’s commitment to forgo revenge and to replace anger (toward the offender) with love and compassion. Pardon, on the other hand, refers to the dismissal of disciplinary consequences that ensue from the offense.
This distinction between forgiveness and pardon is not unique to the Amish; in fact, it appears as a matter of course in the psychological literature on forgiveness—a literature that’s been pioneered by Robert Enright at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Forgiveness is an act of mercy toward an offender, writes Enright, but granting forgiveness (as defined above) does not necessarily mean that justice will be bypassed. Pardoning an offense may—or may not—accompany the act of forgiveness.…
For a people who believe choices have eternal consequences, to fail to discipline would not only neglect their God-given responsibility, it would in fact be the unloving thing to do. It may not be as picturesque as a horse-drawn buggy, but this uniquely Amish view of spiritual care is one more example of how the Amish walk out of step with the culture around them.
According to the math, the rate of albinism in Aicuña isn’t one in every seventeen thousand people but rather one in every ninety. Or as Dr. Eduardo Castilla, the author of “Aicuña: A Study of the Population’s Genetic Structure,” maintains: albinism is almost two hundred times more likely to occur in Aicuña than anywhere else on the planet.
[here via kottke.org]
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.” —T.S. Eliot, from “East Coker”
The atheist who argues from worldly suffering, even crudely, against belief in a God both benevolent and omnipotent is still someone whose moral expectations of God—and moral disappointments—have been shaped at the deepest level by the language of Christian faith. The actual arguments employed may not demonstrate a keen understanding of the Christian tradition, and they may fail strictly in terms of their logic; but they are not directed merely at a phantom, without any substance whatsoever. Behind the mask of this God in whom no one really believes is—at the very least—a memory of the God whom Christians proclaim, or a shadow of a memory. For this reason, the atheist who cannot believe for moral reasons does honor, in an elliptical way, to the Christian God, and so must not be ignored. He demands of us not the surrender of our beliefs but a meticulous recollection on our parts of what those beliefs are, and a definition of divine love that has at least the moral rigor of principled unbelief. This, it turns out, is no simple thing. For sometimes atheism seems to retain elements of “Christianity” within itself that Christians have all too frequently forgotten.
— David Bentley Hart, from The Doors of the Sea, a meditation on evil and the 2005 Tsunami
It has become fashionable in certain smart circles to regard atheism as a sign of superior education, of highly evolved civilization, of enlightenment. Recent bestsellers by Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and others suggest that religious faith is a sign of backwardness, the mark of primitives stuck in the Dark Ages who have not caught up with scientific reason. Religion, we are told, is responsible for violence, oppression, poverty and many other ills. It is not difficult to find examples to back up this assertion. But what about the opposite? Can religion also be a force for good? Are there cases in which religious faith comes to the rescue even of those who don’t have it? I have never personally had either the benefits nor misfortunes of adhering to any religion, but watching Burmese monks on television defying the security forces of one of the world’s most oppressive regimes, it is hard not to see some merit in religious belief.