Category Archives: Science

Your Morning Cup of Links

Can Amazon keep competing with so many competitors?

Politics overtake the Met

Why do people even go to college anymore? It’s certainly not to learn. Don’t waste your money. “You haven’t studied anatomy (because it’s racist obvs), but here’s a medical degree anyway.” We can’t be too far away from that at this point.

Will we ever know what dark matter is?

Goddamn it, NO. “Let’s take something good and ruin it” seems to be the only idea Hollywood has these days.

The Next Lost Cause

Sex Cells

The King of Audiobooks

The man who keeps Monet’s gardens growing

When Milton met Galileo

 

 

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Your Morning Cup of Links

Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens

What unbelievable idiocy

Was Billy Budd black?

The decline of the American laundromat

Lost J.M. Barrie play to be published

This. Every perfect word of this essay.

White people acting white have embraced the ethic of the white underclass, which is distinct from the white working class, which has the distinguishing feature of regular gainful employment. The manners of the white underclass are Trump’s — vulgar, aggressive, boastful, selfish, promiscuous, consumerist. The white working class has a very different ethic. Its members are, in the main, churchgoing, financially prudent, and married, and their manners are formal to the point of icy politeness. You’ll recognize the style if you’ve ever been around it: It’s “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,” but it is the formality of soldiers and police officers — correct and polite, but not in the least bit deferential. It is a formality adopted not to acknowledge the superiority of social betters but to assert the equality of the speaker — equal to any person or situation, perfectly republican manners. It is the general social respect rooted in genuine self-respect. Its opposite is the sneering, leveling, drag-’em-all-down-into-the-mud anti-‘elitism’ of contemporary right-wing populism. Self-respect says: “I’m an American citizen, and I can walk into any room, talk to any president, prince, or potentate, because I can rise to any occasion.” Populist anti-elitism says the opposite: “I can be rude enough and denigrating enough to drag anybody down to my level.” Trump’s rhetoric — ridiculous and demeaning schoolyard nicknames, boasting about money, etc. — has always been about reducing. Trump doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to duke it out with even the modest wits at the New York Times, hence it’s “the failing New York Times.” Never mind that the New York Times isn’t actually failing and that any number of Trump-related businesses have failed so thoroughly that they’ve gone into bankruptcy; the truth doesn’t matter to the argument any more than it matters whether the fifth-grade bully actually has an actionable claim on some poor kid’s lunch money. It would never even occur to the low-minded to identify with anybody other than the bully. That’s what all that ridiculous stuff about ‘winning’ was all about in the campaign. It is might-makes-right, i.e., the politics of chimpanzee troupes, prison yards, kindergartens, and other primitive environments. That is where the underclass ethic thrives — and how “smart people” came to be a term of abuse.

The populist Right’s abandonment of principle has been accompanied by a repudiation of good taste, achievement, education, refinement, and manners — all of which are abominated as signs of effete “elitism.” During the Clinton years, Virtue Inc. was the top-performing share in the Republican political stock exchange. Fortunes were made, books were sold by the ton, and homilies were delivered. The same people today are celebrating Donald Trump — not in spite of his being a dishonest, crude serial adulterer but because of it. His dishonesty, the quondam cardinals of Virtue Inc. assure us, is simply the mark of a savvy businessman, his vulgarity the badge of his genuineness and lack of “political correctness,” and his pitiless abuse of his several wives and children the mark of a genuine “alpha male.” No less a virtue entrepreneur than Bill Bennett dismissed those who pointed out Trump’s endless lies and habitual betrayals as suffering from “moral superiority,” from people on “high horses,” and said that Trump simply is “a guy who says some things awkwardly, indecorously, infelicitously.”

The problem, in Bennett’s telling (and that of many other conservatives), isn’t that Trump is a morally defective reprobate but that he is aesthetically displeasing to overly refined “elitists.” That is a pretty common line of argument — and an intellectual cop-out — but set that aside for the moment. Let’s pretend that Bennett et al. are correct and this is simply a matter of manners. Are we now to celebrate vulgarity as a virtue? Are we to embrace crassness? Are we supposed to pretend that a casino-cum-strip-joint is a civilizational contribution up there with Notre-Dame, that the Trump Taj Mahal trumps the Taj Mahal? Are we supposed to snigger at people who ask that question? Are we supposed to abandon our traditional defense of standards to mimic Trump’s bucket-of-KFC-and-gold-plated-toilet routine? Ludwig von Mises was as clear-eyed a social critic as he was an economist, and he noted something peculiar about the anti-Semitism of the Nazi era: In the past, minority groups were despised for their purported vices — white American racists considered African Americans lazy and mentally deficient, the English thought the Irish drank too much to be trusted to rule their own country, everybody thought the Gypsies were put on this Earth to spread disease and thievery. But the Jews were hated by the Nazis for their virtues: They were too intelligent, too clever, too good at business, too cosmopolitan, too committed to their own distinctness, too rich, too influential, too thrifty.
Our billionaire-ensorcelled anti-elitists take much the same tack: Anybody with a prestigious job, a good income, an education at a selective university, and no oxy overdoses in the immediate family — and anybody who prefers hearing the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center to watching football on television — just doesn’t know what life is like in “the real America” or for the “real men” who live there. No, the “real America,” in this telling, is little more than a series of dead factory towns, dying farms, pill mills — and, above all, victims. There, too, white people acting white echo elements of hip-hop culture, which presents powerful and violent icons of masculinity as hapless victims of American society.

Feeding such people the lie that their problems are mainly external in origin — that they are the victims of scheming elites, immigrants, black welfare malingerers, superabundantly fecund Mexicans, capitalism with Chinese characteristics, Walmart, Wall Street, their neighbors — is the political equivalent of selling them heroin. (And I have no doubt that it is mostly done for the same reason.) It is an analgesic that is unhealthy even in small doses and disabling or lethal in large ones. The opposite message — that life is hard and unfair, that what is not necessarily your fault may yet be your problem, that you must act and bear responsibility for your actions — is what conservatism used to offer, before it became a white-minstrel show.

Recovering the Black Prince

How a French juggler and unicyclist helped create the Information Age

Inside the Rand Corporation’s art collection

A new explanation for ball lightning

Unity is overrated

The Republican party is either going to be a political outfit that supports free trade or it isn’t. The Republican party is either going to be a political outfit that supports free speech or it isn’t. Republicans will throw in their lot with Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Reagan, or they will throw in with Putin, Le Pen, and Götz Kubitschek. The Republican party is either going to remember “When Character Was King” or it is going to forget all that happy talk about “family values” and make its peace with habitual dishonesty, adultery, and betrayal — so long as those things go along with winning elections. Which they very well may, but the Republicans will have to do it without my vote. Party unity is not desirable when it means uniting with undesirable elements, people, and ideas. There isn’t any common ground to be had between classical liberals (we call them ‘conservatives’ in the United States) and the blood-and-soil tiki-Nazis of Charlottesville.

All this talk of “unity” — by which Bannon et al. mean obedience to a mere politician — is creepy. It is also distinctly un-American, as indeed is the alt-right at large, which turns its eyes not to Plymouth Rock or Philadelphia but to nationalist figures and fascist movements in Europe. “Support the president!” has become a moral imperative for some Republicans, who have descended into the classical error of conflating loyalty to the nation and loyalty to its political leader. That isn’t patriotism — it is cultism, and a creed of serfdom…One of the great ironies of our times is all the current complaining about professional athletes’ kneeling from men and a movement determined to live on their knees — in the name of “unity.”

X-ray music

Measuring ripples in space and time

Today in “Things that shouldn’t need to be explained but do because of Trump”:

We cannot place the burden on a Gold Star family to respond appropriately to a president. The burden is on the president to respond appropriately to the Gold Star family, and if there is any concern that the president compounded their pain, then the president’s response should be simple: “I’m sorry. That’s the last thing I wanted to do. Please forgive me.” I fear that we won’t see that kind of humility for perhaps the next seven years. But we’ll need to see it again. We must see it again…And unless we the people demand better from our leaders, we will share the blame.

Yemen reels under weight of brutal cholera outbreak

Oh come on people

What a dumb time to be alive. It’s almost as if there’s a complaint ready for every course of action because the aim is to be upset. Halloween costume hot takes make me grateful I live in a country where all other problems have been solved.

The original article, written by Sachi Feris, discusses how her white daughter was torn between dressing as Elsa, from Frozen, or the titular character from Moana. Feris expresses concern that while an Elsa costume might reinforce notions of white privilege, dressing up as Moana is essentially cultural appropriation — the act of reducing someone’s culture to stereotypes, and thereby belittling it. Though Feris puzzles over how one might wear a Moana costume respectfully, she ultimately decides it just isn’t a good idea.

How the ancient Greeks saw color and what this tells us about their world

Why everyone is flocking to Serbia’s brass-band festival

Finland’s screwy sports

Andy Warhol’s Catholicism

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Your Morning Cup of Links

MFA Boston receives its largest gift of European paintings ever

When Beethoven met Goethe

8 things you should know about da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi,’ his Holy Mona Lisa

Paintings hung above eye level judged aesthetically superior

“The case for the policies I’d lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence.”

Trump’s empty culture wars

“About that fourth tax bracket”

McHealthcare Deluxe 

Trump vs. the First Amendment

The Third Reich and “World Ice Theory”

A marvelous new translation of a Middle English masterpiece

Can alcohol fuel creativity?

What happened to the literary Midwest?

Christ in the Garden of Endless Breadsticks

Out for Young Blood

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Filed under Art, Guns, History, Literature, Politics, Science, Uncategorized

Afternoon Links

The return of letterpress printing

A history of moonshine

The real Prufrock behind T.S. Eliot’s famous poem

Toscanini, a self-made and principled musician

You’ve probably never heard of him, but you know his work

7 things you need to know about the Charlottesville violence and white supremacist terror attack

The promises and pitfalls of the gene editing technique known as CRISPR 

The strange art of the strange Wyndham Lewis

“President Trump built his reputation with tough talk and harsh condemnations of people who earn his disapproval. That he refused to offer those things on Saturday is no accident. It’s no surprise, either.”

Yep: “Charlottesville is why I’m glad I don’t support Trump”

Why the Curiosity Rover stopped singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to itself

In defense of cigarettes

“You can have the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, or you can have your ridiculous race cult.

“As things stand today, we face a darkening political future, potentially greater loss of life, and a degree of polarization that makes 2016 look like a time of national unity. Presidents aren’t all-powerful, but they can either help or hurt.”

Can Taylor Swift lead America out of the campus Title IX wars?

Yes, thank you: “Instead of dumbing down Shakespeare, smarten up the kids”

This is hilarious.

You were warned, dum-dums.

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Your Morning Cup of Links

OMG. Hamlet!

It’s time to deal with the police threat to the Second Amendment

“Trump is Woody Allen without the humor”

The utter contempt I have for these petty fascists cannot be overstated.

“In the era of Trump, we’re lost in the monkey house

From guitar manufacturer to “musical lifestyle company”?

Frank Lloyd Wright at 150

The ‘no guardrails’ presidency

Vintage Casablanca poster sells for $478,000 

The death of reading is threatening the soul

This is so good:

These guys don’t want to see Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross. What they want is to be Blake. They want to swagger, to curse, to insult, and to exercise power over men, exercising power over men being the classical means to the end of exercising power over women, which is of course what this, and nine-tenths of everything else in human affairs, is about. Blake is a specimen of that famous creature, the “alpha male,” and establishing and advertising one’s alpha creds is an obsession for some sexually unhappy contemporary men.

If that sounds preposterous, remind yourself who the president of the United States of America is. Trump is the political version of a pickup artist, and Republicans — and America — went to bed with him convinced that he was something other than what he is. Trump inherited his fortune but describes himself as though he were a self-made man.

He has had a middling career in real estate and a poor one as a hotelier and casino operator but convinced people he is a titan of industry. He has never managed a large, complex corporate enterprise, but he did play an executive on a reality show. He presents himself as a confident ladies’ man but is so insecure that he invented an imaginary friend to lie to the New York press about his love life and is now married to a woman who is open and blasé about the fact that she married him for his money. He fixates on certain words (“negotiator”) and certain classes of words (mainly adjectives and adverbs, “bigly,” “major,” “world-class,” “top,” and superlatives), but he isn’t much of a negotiator, manager, or leader. He cannot negotiate a health-care deal among members of a party desperate for one, can’t manage his own factionalized and leak-ridden White House, and cannot lead a political movement that aspires to anything greater than the service of his own pathetic vanity.

He wants to be John Wayne, but what he is is “Woody Allen without the humor.” Peggy Noonan, to whom we owe that observation, has his number: He is soft, weak, whimpering, and petulant. He isn’t smart enough to do the job and isn’t man enough to own up to the fact. For all his gold-plated toilets, he is at heart that middling junior salesman watching Glengarry Glen Ross and thinking to himself: “That’s the man I want to be.”…Hence the cartoon tough-guy act. Scaramucci’s star didn’t fade when he gave that batty and profane interview in which he reimagined Steve Bannon as a kind of autoerotic yogi. That’s Scaramucci’s best impersonation of the sort of man the president of these United States, God help us, aspires to be. But he isn’t that guy. He isn’t Blake. He’s poor sad old Shelley Levene, who cannot close the deal, who spends his nights whining about the unfairness of it all.

Hunting a 500-year-old shark

New research on the effects of power shows that it really does corrupt…your brain

A history of the rock star 

 

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Filed under Guns, Politics, Science, Uncategorized

Your Morning Cup of Links

Don’t resign, Jeff Sessions. Make him fire you.

If only a loud group of people had warned that this administration would turn into a horrendous clusterfuck.

“It is a multitiered tower of political idiocy, a sublime monument to the moronic, a gaudy, gleaming, Ozymandian folly that leaves many of the president’s prior efforts in its shade. Let us walk through the levels of stupidity one by one…”

“Mr. President, please be quiet.”

It won’t change, because he can’t change. Character is destiny, now and forever.”

Why it’s hard to take Democrats seriously on Russia

Sharks’ social lives are way more interesting than yours

Sperm counts among Western men have halved in last 40 years

What a fucking disgrace. So glad I left this party.

The Shakespeare that almost didn’t happen

The National Museum of China was the world’s most visited museum last year

The savage beauty of central Italy

What happened to video games based on movies?

Zen and the art of the world’s deadliest motorcycle race

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Your Morning Cup of Links

On health care, bipartisan dishonesty is the problem

Exhumation of Salvador Dali’s remains finds his mustache still intact

Goethe: Life as a Work of Art

The limits of a history of the cross in Christian art

Mary Beard on voting in the ancient world

The dumbest thing you’ll read this week

Civil asset forfeiture is un-American and incompatible with a free society

How capitalism saved the bees

Insanity

No, it’s time to actually teach people something in high school, where algebra is supposed to be taught.

Every word of this

“One of the great enduring stupidities of modern economic life is the belief that buying American is somehow beneficial to the United States as a whole.”

What was Wagner like?

“Trump was especially disturbed after learning Mueller would be able to access several years of his tax returns.”

Disband this Party. Unfit to govern.

A new theory of how the moon formed

Hillary’s White House would be no different than Trump’s

Julius Caesar in Gaul

A history of heart surgery

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Filed under History, Literature, Politics, Science, Uncategorized, Unusually Stupid Primates