The Barrel by Aldous Harding (my favorite thing, at the moment)

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Barbara Hammer (1939 – 2019)

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Dick Dale (1937 – 2019)

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Sunday Poem

Lament for the Makers Not bird not badger not beaver not bee Many creatures must make, but only one must seek within itself what to make My father’s ring was a B with a dart through it, in diamonds against polished black stone. I have it. What parents leave you is their lives. Un … | Continue reading | 7 hours ago

Gwern’s AI-Generated Poetry

Scott Alexander in Slate Star Codex: Gwern has answered my prayers and taught GPT-2 poetry. GPT-2 is the language processing system that OpenAI announced a few weeks ago. They are keeping the full version secret, but have released a smaller prototype version. Gwern retrained it o … | Continue reading | 20 hours ago

The Neanderthal renaissance

Rebecca Wragg Sykes in Aeon: Who were the Neanderthals? Even for archaeologists working at the trowel’s edge of contemporary science, it can be hard to see Neanderthals as anything more than intriguing abstractions, mixed up with the likes of mammoths, woolly rhinos and sabre-too … | Continue reading | 20 hours ago

Democracy — What Would That Be Like?

David Byrne at his own website: Our system—as evidenced by studies at Princeton University and Northwestern University and other research—is not a true representative government. The will of the majority of people in the US is not represented—except in those cases when the desire … | Continue reading | 21 hours ago

Saturday Qawwali: Farid Ayaz & Abu Muhammad sing “Bazeecha e Atfal Hai Duniya”

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How Translation Obscured the Music of The Bible

Robert Alter at berfrois: An essential fact about the Hebrew Bible is that most of its narrative prose as well as its poetry manifests a high order of sophisticated literary fashioning. This means that any translation that does not attempt to convey at least something of the styl … | Continue reading | 1 day ago

‘Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure’ by Eli Clare

Ashley Miller at the Quarterly Conversation: This “the ideology of cure” also focuses on the future of the disabled individual rather than on their present. Clare points out how various forms of activism often promote cure as the only response to body-mind difference and loss. Fo … | Continue reading | 1 day ago

Understanding Our Origins

From The Chronicle of Higher Education: For years, archaeologists thought Europe was the site of the first creative impulses, with famous cave drawings like those at Chauvet, France, putting humans’ innate artistic expression on display. Only in the past decade has that assumptio … | Continue reading | 1 day ago

The Moral Clarity of ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ at 50

Kevin Powers in The New York Times: There is an eminently useful thought experiment with which I suspect you are familiar. It goes something like, “What would an alien think of ____?” The blank is typically filled in with something like sex, or our destructive relationship to the … | Continue reading | 1 day ago

Saturday Poem

When I Meet the Last Taushiro I ask him why his folk settled at the mouth of the Aucayacu River instead of plodding north. He tells me they meant to live. The conference begins & a man hands him a card. Several follow. The day before, he’d gathered rainwater & buttered up some yu … | Continue reading | 1 day ago

Signs and Wonders

Delia Falconer in the Sydney Review of Books: In ancient Rome, priests and officials called augurs would look for omens of the future in the weather, the movement of animals (especially animals encountered out of place), or the flights of birds. These days, we’re scrutinising the … | Continue reading | 1 day ago

This essay explains how quantum computers work

Andy Matuschak and Michael Nielsen in Quantum Country: It’s not a survey essay, or a popularization based on hand-wavy analogies. We’re going to dig down deep so you understand the details of quantum computing. Along the way, we’ll also learn the basic principles of quantum mecha … | Continue reading | 1 day ago

White Supremacism Isn’t Insanity

Shadi Hamid in Foreign Policy: It is reasonable that we would want to cast such an attack outside the realm of rationality, to tell ourselves that expressions of evil are random and unpredictable; it’s the same impulse many had when faced with the brutality and terror of the Isla … | Continue reading | 1 day ago

John Oliver on the power of public shaming, good and bad

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A Last Conversation with Carolee

Alison Knowles with Carolee Schneemann: Schneemann: We would go mushroom hunting with him. And Higgins made these incredible mushroom dinners, right? They made you poop like crazy, but they were delicious. And John was very close with Tenney. Tenney produced Cage’s concerts early … | Continue reading | 2 days ago

Agustín Fernández Mallo’s Contemporary Epic

Jessica Loudis at The Nation: One of the paradoxes of Nocilla Dream is that it is an apolitical book that owes its success in part to politics. Mallo was born in 1967, only eight years before Francisco Franco’s dictatorship gave way to Spain’s nascent democracy. He came of age in … | Continue reading | 2 days ago

Free Trade in Medieval England

Paul Strohm at Lapham’s Quarterly: Giano’s killing was one episode in the larger story of international trade and its accompanying rivalries in the later European Middle Ages. The so-called Dark Ages were never as dark as their name would imply; hucksters, peddlers, chapmen, and … | Continue reading | 2 days ago

Arabs: A 3,000-Year History

Ian Black in The Guardian: Outside the window of Tim Mackintosh-Smith’s home in Sana’a, the Yemeni capital, are reminders of the long sweep of Arab history – child soldiers mourning martyrs of the country’s ongoing war, rocket salvoes, sectarian rivalries, hypnotic slogans and a … | Continue reading | 2 days ago

Protein-slaying drugs could be the next blockbuster therapies

Megan Scudellari in Nature: When Craig Crews first managed to make proteins disappear on command with a bizarre new compound, the biochemist says that he considered it a “parlour trick”, a “cute chemical curiosity”. Today, that cute trick is driving billions of US dollars in inve … | Continue reading | 2 days ago

Friday Poem

The Condition of Water Turning back toward home on my after-breakfast walk I face the steep hill of eucalyptus that stands over our neighborhood and am struck by the beauty of what can hardly be seen for today after heavy rain the highest levels are obscured like the truth of the … | Continue reading | 2 days ago

Economics After Neoliberalism

Suresh Naidu, Dani Rodrik, and Gabriel Zucman in the Boston Review: The tools of economics are critical to developing a policy framework for what we call “inclusive prosperity.” While prosperity is the traditional concern of economists, the “inclusive” modifier demands both that … | Continue reading | 2 days ago

Bill Gates: Why I’m into meditation

Bill Gates in Gates Notes: I stopped listening to music and watching TV in my 20s. It sounds extreme, but I did it because I thought they would just distract me from thinking about software. That blackout period lasted only about five years, and these days I’m a huge fan of TV sh … | Continue reading | 2 days ago

UAE: The ‘happiest’ little police state ever?

Belen Fernandez in Middle East Eye: In February, Time Out Dubai ecstatically reported that the United Arab Emirates was “one of the happiest countries in the world”, according to a new study by the Boston Consulting Group. The article’s author, Scott Campbell, gushed that the “tr … | Continue reading | 2 days ago

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein: Why I Left Orthodox Judaism

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The Current State of Global Faith

Rupert Shortt at the TLS: Despite the spread of secularism in the West, rising levels of religious belief in the world as a whole have become incontrovertible. Three-quarters of humanity profess a faith; the figure is projected to reach 80 per cent by 2050 – not just because beli … | Continue reading | 3 days ago

Bach’s Birthday, Bruno Maderna

Sudip Bose at The American Scholar: No composer exerted a greater influence on the music that came after him than Johann Sebastian Bach, who was born on this date in 1685. As we celebrate his birthday, let us consider one distinctive way in which composers have paid homage to the … | Continue reading | 3 days ago

Okwui Enwezor (1963 – 2019)

Adam Shatz at the LRB: Okwui’s art world looked more like the world itself. But this was no occasion for self-congratulation, much less for exercises in the sterile American rhetoric of ‘inclusion’, which he disdained. His project was to decolonise the art world: not to make it m … | Continue reading | 3 days ago

Thursday Poem

Ways In, Ways Out Hemingway’s looking down the twin-barrel of the shotgun into a blue metallic void. Hart Crane has one foot on deck, the other over the rail, his eye on the ship’s boiling wake below. Sylvia Plath’s on her knees in the kitchen with her head in the oven, wondering … | Continue reading | 3 days ago

How to Improve Political Forecasts

Aubrey Clayton in Nautilus: Every election we complain about horse-race coverage and every election we stay glued to it all the same. The problem with this kind of coverage is not that it’s unimportant. Who’s leading a particular race and by how much can matter a great deal to so … | Continue reading | 3 days ago

The fate of the book review in the age of the algorithm

Christian Lorentzen in Harper’s: It is a commonplace that we live in a time of political polarization and culture war, but if culture is considered not in terms of left and right but as a set of attitudes toward the arts, then, at least among people who pay attention to the arts, … | Continue reading | 3 days ago

Sean Carroll’s Mindscape Podcast: Alan Lightman on Transcendence, Science, and a Naturalist’s Sense of Meaning

Sean Carroll in Preposterous Universe: Let’s say, for sake of argument, that you don’t believe in God or the supernatural. Is there still a place for talking about transcendence, the sacred, and meaning in life? Some of the above, but not all? Today’s guest, Alan Lightman, brings … | Continue reading | 3 days ago

Opportunity costs: can carbon taxing become a positive-sum game?

John Quiggin in Aeon: Decades ago, economists developed solutions – or variants on the same solution – to the problem of pollution, the key being the imposition of a price on the generation of pollutants such as carbon dioxide (CO2). The idea was to make visible, and accountable, … | Continue reading | 3 days ago

David Deutsch: Which Laws of Nature are Fundamental?

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On the Poetic Legacy of W.S. Merwin

John Freeman at Literary Hub: This inward movement of Merwin’s poetry happened simultaneously with a radical stylistic shift. In the introduction to The Second Four Books of Poems, Merwin describes how, beginning in the early 1960s, he began to shed punctuation, until he had give … | Continue reading | 3 days ago

Philosophers as The Emotion Police

Agnes Callard at The Point: If you tell me to calm down, I probably won’t. The same goes for: “be reasonable,” “get over it already,” “you’re overreacting,” “it was just a joke,” “it’s not such a big deal.” When someone minimizes my feelings, my self-protective reflexes kick in. … | Continue reading | 3 days ago

Hilma of Klint: Painting the Beyond

Susan Tallman at the NYRB: Born in 1862 to a prominent Swedish family (her great-grandfather had been ennobled for services as a naval officer), Hilma af Klint was a skilled painter of portraits and landscapes who in the first decades of the twentieth century began making hundred … | Continue reading | 3 days ago

The science of the con

Melanie McFarland in AlterNet: Look at me, the con artist says. Watch closely so you can see everything I’m doing. We can’t, of course, because we’re not meant to. Yet we fall for frauds because we so want what they promise to be true: easy money, better solutions, painlessness a … | Continue reading | 3 days ago

The Creativity of ADHD

Holly White in Scientific American: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is typically described by the problems it presents. It is known as a neurological disorder, marked by distractibility, impulsivity and hyperactivity, which begins in childhood and persists in adul … | Continue reading | 3 days ago

Wednesday Poem

From “understory” …… (to my wife, nālani …… and our 7-month old daughter, kai) kai cries from teething– how do new parents comfort a child in pain, bullied in school, shot by a drunk APEC agent? #justicefor -kollinelderts– nālani gently massages kai’s gums with her fingers- how d … | Continue reading | 4 days ago

The Immortals and Time

Christopher G. Moore in CulturMag: The word “immortals” is entwined in my mind with the Jorge Luis Borges’ story titled The Immortals. The story is an exploration of immortal beings imprisoned in the infinite and seeking to understand their condition. This passage in particular s … | Continue reading | 4 days ago

Flawed analysis, failed oversight: How Boeing, FAA certified the suspect 737 MAX flight control system

Dominic Gates in The Seattle Times: As Boeing hustled in 2015 to catch up to Airbus and certify its new 737 MAX, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) managers pushed the agency’s safety engineers to delegate safety assessments to Boeing itself, and to speedily approve the result … | Continue reading | 4 days ago

Needed: A U.S. Policy on Saudi Arabia

Jonathan Guyer in American Prospect: Until the 1970s, Saudi Arabia was simply a docile U.S. ally and source of cheap oil. That began to change with the OPEC-engineered price hikes, masterminded by the Saudi government. The Saudi government then subsidized the spread of radically … | Continue reading | 4 days ago

Sean Carroll on the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics

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The East in You Never Leaves

Júlia Sonnevend at Eurozine: The East in you never leaves, I thought, after leaving the immigration bureau. Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, here I was in Manhattan, and felt deeply and fully ‘eastern’. What does that mean for somebody who was only ten years old in … | Continue reading | 4 days ago

Two Memories of W. S. Merwin

Christopher Merrill and Alice Quinn at The Paris Review: The sun was setting in Hawaii on a spring day in 1995, when W. S. Merwin invited me into his study to hear him recite a new poem, and since he did not care to turn on the lights I listened to the last stanzas of his “Lament … | Continue reading | 5 days ago