Sunday, August 19, 2018

How Books Let Us See Inside Others’ Brains

Last year, 15% of American couples held their wedding reception at a barn or farm, up from just 2% in 2009.

From the archives: How Aretha Franklin teaches us to persevere through life’s most trying moments.
The Morning News

Alfred Brendel On How Music Makes Sense Of The World

For a performer like Brendel, balancing chaos and order requires a capacity for both seriousness and playfulness, and a comfort with some overlap. He holds that a totally logical world would be very regrettable, that there needs to be a balance between the rational and the irrational, the finite and the infinite. The performer and the listener each can think of this productive tension as that between sound and silence. Loving music, Brendel suggests, means embracing its fleeting moments as well as the silence out of which they come. … Read More 

       At The Western Sasha Frere-Jones has Books need every friend they can get to raise their heads out of the madding crowd, an e-mail Q & A with Barbara Epler and Tynan Kogane of New Directions and Jacques Testard of Fitzcarraldo Editions -- publishers of some of the most interesting writing in translation (and English, too) in the US and UK. 

Sayaka Murata 

It's not often that I read contemporary fiction. And it's even less often, I concede, that I read outside the American or European canon. But Sayaka Murata's Convenience Store Woman was reviewed twice by the New York Times and piqued my interest.

So I read the book this week: in three sittings. It's a short novel, probably better described as a novella. But I'll admit, it packs a certain punch. This isn't a perfect book: there were times I felt a longer, more developed narrative might have added necessary layers to the book's emotional landscape. But as I say: there's lots to like here, even if Murata focuses, by and large, on a single thread.

Convenience Store Woman is about just that: a thirty-six year-old woman working at a convenience store in Tokyo. The difficulty is that she's worked there, without interruption, for sixteen years. In a sense, she is the store, describing it at times as she might herself: its breathing, its rhythms, its vitality.  

Working at any store, but particularly a convenience store, for so long comes with inevitable social judgement, and Murata writes convincingly of that dynamic: her central character -- Keiko Furukura -- is repeatedly reminded of the choice she must make: to marry, or to assume more meaningful work. She does neither, of course, and is cast as something "weird," as someone to be fixed. 

In sparse, accessible prose, Murata succeeds in asking a number of profound questions. Among them: what is the relationship between life and work, and to what extent does work dictate happiness? Because if not happy, Furukura is at least content. And who's to say there's anything wrong with that? 

Ultimately, I felt Convenience Store Woman might have continued further, or that its existing narrative might have been bolstered by way of more complexity (and a more detailed treatment of sexuality). But perhaps that's Murata's objective: to cast everything in a simple -- a deceptively simple -- light: to reveal small talk for what it is, and to present Murata for what she is: a worker content, despite society's attempts to belittle that achievement. 

She's the greatest: Winx races into history with 26th straight win

Wonder mare Winx has won her 26th race in a row to eclipse super sprinter Black Caviar and set a new Australian record for consecutive victories.

Winx wins again and break hearts and Black Caviar's record

The best Australian horse of this century was again at her imperious best at Randwick on Saturday.


Untethered: A Primer on Social Isolation. A crash course on what's keeping us apart, as written for leaders, entrepreneurs, and funders with an appetite for solving big challenges. By David T. Hsu

Chronicle of Higher Education: “Scholarly reading is a craft — one that academics are expected to figure out on our own. After all, it’s just reading. We all know how to do that, right? Yes and no. Scholarly reading remains an obscure, self-taught process of assembling, absorbing, and strategically deploying the writing of others. Digital technology has transformed the research process, making it faster and easier to find sources and to record and retrieve information. Like it or not, we’ve moved beyond card catalogs, stacks of annotated books and articles, and piles of 3×5 cards. What hasn’t changed, however, is the basic way we go about reading scholarly work. In graduate school, we are told to “do the reading” and “know the literature,” in order to understand our field and master a particular corner of it. We do our best to absorb key sources and orient ourselves to the discipline so that we can demonstrate our mastery in preliminary exams, dissertation proposals, and literature reviews. Throughout our academic careers, that remains our mandate: Find the relevant literature, make sense of it, and then use it in our own scholarly work. But how, exactly? Rookie scholars and established ones alike could benefit from a clearer, more detailed understanding of how to read effectively. For me, the craft of scholarly reading proceeds in three phases, each with goals and pitfalls…”Saturday preview: Winx could be vulnerable in race named in her ...
catamaran spring 2018
Roland Petersen's "American Bathers, 2017" on the cover of Spring 2018 Catamarancaptures the essence of summer; this publication belongs in every beach tote and travel bag to take along on your summer adventures!

greatamericanreadThe Great American Read is an eight-part series from PBS that "explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey). It investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience."
The series kicked off with a two-hour launch in May and continued with five one-hour episodes examining concepts common to the eligible novels. The finale - planned for October 2018 - will announce the results of the nation-wide vote to select America's best-loved book.
The Great American Read website includes all the programs for online viewing as well as the list of 100 books and directions on how to vote for your best-loved novels from the list.
SHOCKING NEWS FROM THE WORLD OF SCIENCE: Men have better sex with emotionally unstable women

 Stories as Prayer: A Conversation Between Joshua Cohen and Harold Bloom - Los Angeles Review of Books

Revealing Data: Why We Need Humans to Curate Web Collections

Circulating Now – NIH – “In this Revealing Data series we explore data in historical medical collections, and how preserving this data helps to ensure that generations of researchers can reexamine it, reveal new stories, and make new discoveries. Future researchers will likely want to examine the data of the web archive collections, collected and preserved by libraries, archives, and others, using a wide range of approaches, to document unfolding events.  Today Circulating Now welcomes guest blogger Alexander Nwala (@acnwala), writing on his research using NLM web archive collections to compare different methods of selecting web content, and some of the difficulties encountered in generating seeds automatically.”

I am a Computer Science PhD student and member of the Web Science and Digital Libraries research group at Old Dominion University, Norfolk Virginia. For the past three years, I have been researching generating collections for stories and events under the supervision of Dr. Michael Nelson and Dr. Michele Weigle. There is a shortage of curators to build web archive collections in a world of rapidly unfolding events. A primary objective of my research is investigating how to automatically generate seeds (in the absence of domain knowledge) to create or augment web archive collections…”

Of Course Language Shapes How We Think. But Does It Change Our Sense Of Time?

Lera Boroditsky, of Stanford University, has amassed interesting data on the effects of how we speak of things, such as that people who speak languages that use the same word for a pair of colours need more time to distinguish between them than ones who have a separate word for each – but they can distinguish between them. Mandarin speakers conceptualise time vertically while English speakers conceptualise it horizontally – but each language could use the other metaphor; it has the words for it.

Why ‘Punning Is, In Fact, Among The Highest Displays Of Wit’

Says James Geary, author of Wit’s End, “Puns point to the essence of all true wit — the ability to hold in the mind two different ideas about the same thing at the same time. … In poetry, words rhyme; in puns, ideas rhyme. This is the ultimate test of wittiness, keeping your balance even when you’re of two minds.”

How Books Let Us See Inside Others’ Brains

“There are many things that would be lost if we slowly lose the cognitive patience to immerse ourselves in the worlds created by books and the lives and feelings of the “friends” who inhabit them. And although it is a wonderful thing that movies and film can do some of this, too, there is a difference in the quality of immersion that is made possible by entering the articulated thoughts of others. What will happen to young readers who never meet and begin to understand the thoughts and feelings of someone totally different?”

Why John Milton’s Lucifer Is So Compelling — To Eve, And To Us

Edwin Yoder: “Despite the warnings of C. S. Lewis and others, I am left echoing Eve’s question: if the beasts [can eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil], why not man? Why, having armed his new creatures with intellectual curiosity, should their thirst for intellectual adventure become the paramount sin and its exercise a cosmic catastrophe? This prohibition seems especially odd because it contradicts what we know of Milton the lifelong scholar and polymath.”

When Algorithms Decide Your Creativity

Words matter to me. I am a professional writer, after all. But then Gmail made it tantalizingly easy to say “hi” instead of “hey,” and Google’s prediction, albeit wrong at first, became self-fulfilling. It wasn’t until two weeks after I began using Smart Compose that I realized I had handed over a small part of my identity to an algorithm.

World Cup Boosted Sales Of Russian Literature

“According to state statistics, more than 1 million foreign tourists and football fans visited Russia in the first two months of this summer, contributing a growth in book sales reported to be almost 50 percent higher than were seen in the same timeframe of 2017.” The increased demand from visitors was largely for the classics, with the only widely-requested 20th-century titles being The Master and Margarita and Doctor Zhivago.