Sunday, May 31, 2020

SpaceX MEdia Dragon: 10 of the best books about mountains – for a virtual climb

Pioneers, PoWs and those taking spiritual paths immerse the reader in beautiful and treacherous landscapes and offer wisdom for our times

For her photo series Qajar, Iranian photographer Shadi Ghadirian styled her subjects and their backgrounds as they would have appeared in portraits taken during Iran’s Qajar Dynasty in the 19th century. But each subject is also posed with a contemporary object like a boombox, bicycle, soda can, or vacuum cleaner. Ghadirian says of her work: “My pictures became a mirror reflecting how I felt: we are stuck between tradition and modernity.”

The SpaceX Dragon, also known as Dragon 1 was a reusable cargo spacecraft developed by SpaceX, an American private space transportation company. Dragon was launched into orbit by the company's Falcon 9 launch vehicle to resupply theInternational Space Station (ISS).

Not the first time that riots and space exploration highlighted the duality of modern America life. Amity Shlaes tweeted yesterday a topic she explored at length in her new Great Society book ... 

Among the 100 top-grossing domestic movie releases, there have been three occasions when two of those films opened on the same weekend.
“Dr. Zhivago” and “Thunderball” shared Christmas 1965; “The Exorcist” and “The Sting” were Christmas 1973. And on Memorial Day Weekend 1977 there was “Smokey and the Bandit”… and “Star Wars.”
Read the whole thing. For all of the talk of the dark, European-influenced auteur-driven “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls” Hollywood of the ‘70s, the industry could still turn out far more entertaining movies than today’s product. If only that Hollywood still existed.

 Beethoven and the ABC Classic 100 Countdown – A not-to-be missed event

On the weekend of the 7 and 8 June, ABC Classic will be conducting its Classic 100 Countdown for 2020. Being the 250th anniversary of his birth, it is devoted to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven. Continue reading 

Powderfinger's virtual reunion gig raises $450,000

A one-off online concert by the Aussie favourites raises more than $450,000, which will be used to support struggling artists and musicians.

Philosopher of the Heart: The Restless Life of Soren Kierkegaard by Clare Carlisle, reviewed by Justin Taylor in Bookforum.

This Life by Martin Hägglund, reviewed by Knox Peden in the Sydney Review of Books.

Think Like a Feminist: The Philosophy Behind the Revolution by Carol Hay, reviewed at Kirkus Reviews

Over a hundred free philosophical activities for children — “PhiloQuests” are “a series of thinking and creative missions” from the new Institute of Philosophy, Citizenship and Youth at Université de Montréal

“I think often of philosophy but as one thinks of someone lost. I want to turn to her and say, ‘Remember when we…'” — Amy Olberding (Oklahoma) on how, under these conditions, “I don’t really want to do philosophy”

The Future Of Filmmaking

Some things may change until there’s a vaccine – constant testing, small pods of workers instead of a huge crew, no craft services table – but others, like board meetings by Zoom, are here to stay. Director/producer Frank Marshall; “I know there’s a future, I know we will get through this, but the big question is when.” – Los Angeles Times

Are We Losing Our Abilities To Read Deeply?

Sometimes you have to live in precarious and temporary places. Unsuitable places. Wrong places. Sometimes the safe place won’t help you. …I have noticed that doing the sensible thing is only a good idea when the decision is quite small. For the life-changing things, you must risk it.”
–Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Without a knowledge of mythology much of the elegant literature of our own language cannot be understood and appreciated. 

 — Thomas Bulfinch, who died in 1867

Are We Losing Our Abilities To Read Deeply?

Beyond self-inflicted attention deficits, people who cannot deep read — or who do not use and hence lose the deep-reading skills they learned — typically suffer from an attenuated capability to comprehend and use abstract reasoning. In other words, if you can’t, or don’t, slow down sufficiently to focus quality attention — what Wolf calls “cognitive patience” — on a complex problem, you cannot effectively think about it. – National Affairs

How Did Renaissance Architects Build Church Domes Without Columns? High-Tech Analysis Has Found The Answer

The broad cupolas in Italian churches of the era were constructed by laying bricks in a “complex cross-herringbone spiraling pattern” called a double loxodrome, according to a team of engineering researchers at Princeton and the University of Bergamo. – Artnet

Boy, 12, followed down mountain by brown bear BBC. Excellent coaching by (presumably) parents and admirable cool-headedness. Running from a brown bear (this looks like a Euro grizzly cousin) = self-identification as prey.

'No single point of accountability' for Ruby Princess situation, former Border Force boss says

The former head of Australian Border Force, Roman Quaedvlieg, says authorities should have managed the Ruby Princess cruise ship differently

“In many ways, Spinoza is now replacing Kant and Descartes as both the compass and the watershed of modern thought” — Clare Carlisle (KCL) and Yitzhak Y. Melamed (JHU) on Spinoza on God and nature

We’ve all had to puzzle over such profound matters as birth, death, regret, free will, agency, and love. How might philosophy help us think through these vital concerns? In On Being Me, renowned moral philosopher J. David Velleman presents a concise, accessible, and intimate exploration into subjects that we care deeply about, offering compelling insights into what it means to be human.

From Knausgaard to Lerner to Heti, we’re plagued by goodness — as if readers were scandalized by immoral characters in fiction 

Saturday, May 30, 2020

What Will Post-COVID Novels Be Like? For Possible Answers, Look To Post-9/11 Fiction

Time says ‘Let there be,'” Ursula K. Le Guin wrote shortly before her death in her splendid “Hymn to Time,” saluting the invisible dimension that pervades and encompasses the whole of life: “the radiance of each bright galaxy. And eyes beholding radiance. And the gnats’ flickering dance. And the seas’ expanse. And death, and chance.”

Recipe books that could almost double as celebrity memoirs

Now is the perfect time to catch up on the best books, films, television shows, music and podcasts you might have missed.

NVIDIA trained an AI to not only play Pac-Man but to generate a fully functional version of the game. "We were blown away when we saw the results, in disbelief that AI could recreate the iconic PAC-MAN experience without a game engine."

How not to fall for coronavirus BS: avoid the 7 deadly sins of thought – Luke Zaphir, Researcher for the University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project, posits that amid the panicked flurry of the pandemic, employing concepts from the field of critical thinking called vice epistemology can be demonstrably useful. This theory argues our thinking habits and intellectual character traits cause poor reasoning. Zaphr targets for discussion 7 “intellectual sins” of which we should be mindful in these challenging times.

NPR – Social Media Usage Is At An All-Time High - That Could Mean A Nightmare For Democracy: “America’s new socially distant reality has warped the landscape of the 2020 election. Candidates aren’t out knocking on doors, and U.S. election officials are bracing for a record surge in mail ballots. But another subtler shift is also occurring — inside people’s brains. Four years after Russia’s expansive influence operation, which touched the feeds of more than 100 million userson Facebook alone, Americans’ usage of social media has only increased — and drastically so, as a result of the pandemic. More people are more online right now than at any point in human history, and experts say the Internet has gotten only more flooded since 2016 with bad information. “It’s far, far worse in terms of quantity,” says Steven Brill, a former journalist and now the CEO of NewsGuard, a browser extension that helps users discern the quality of what they’re reading online….A study out last week from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that nearly half of the Twitter accounts spreading messages about the coronavirus pandemic are likely bots — automated accounts designed to make it appear that more humans are acting a certain way than truly are…”

       They've announced the winner of this year's prix mondial Cino del Duca, a €200,000 prize that has gone to everyone from Andrei Sakharov (1974) to Jorge Luis Borges (1980), Mario Vargas Llosa (2008), Milan Kundera (2009), and Patrick Modiano (2010). The 2020 prize goes to Joyce Carol Oates; no word yet at the official site, as best I can tell, but see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report. 

       At Radio Prague International Tom McEnchroe reports on how Various initiatives seek to support Czech book market recovering from coronavirus lockdown. 
       Some interesting ideas -- and also impressive to hear that:

Meanwhile, the Czech Literary Centre (Czech Lit), a relatively new public institution aimed at propagating Czech literature at home and abroad has announced its own form of support. Czech Lit Director Martin Krafl told Czech Television that the organisation has dedicated CZK 560,000 from its budget to provide 16 Czech authors with a monthly stipend of CZK 20,000.
       (CZK 20,000 is a bit more than US$800 -- not a huge amount, but certainly welcome, I'd imagine.) 

What Will Post-COVID Novels Be Like? For Possible Answers, Look To Post-9/11 Fiction

Chris Bohjalian: “If 9/11 is a literary precedent, it could be years before we will see our first rush of novels about the coronavirus pandemic.” (The first such major titles, Ian McEwan’s Saturday and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, appeared in 2005.) “Some will no doubt take place in the innermost ring of Dante’s Inferno that has been New York City’s emergency rooms, and some will be about the chaos of home schooling twin 8-year-olds while your toddler crashes your corporate Zoom meeting. Some will be about claustrophobia and the idea that hell really is other people. Or jigsaw puzzles.” – The Washington Post

A Song Criticizing A Politician Tops The Charts In Poland – And Moments Later, It’s Completely Disappeared

Kazik Staszewski is a rock legend in Poland, and his song, “Your Pain Is Better than Mine,” hit a chord last week – or perhaps too many chords when it hit number 1 on a popular show. “Within minutes of the show ending, the results disappeared from the website of the show’s state-run broadcaster. Mr. Staszewski’s anthem had vanished, along with the rest of the chart.” One of the radio station’s many now-resigned hosts says, “even the Communist regime had more respect for the freedom of speech at Trojka than the current government has.” – The New York Times

Herd Of Fuzzy Green ‘Glacier Mice’ Baffles Scientists NPR (dk). Original. Like science fiction, except on Earth!

Simulated Sunlight Rapidly Inactivates SARS-CoV-2 on Surfaces Journal of Infectious Diseases. From the abstract: “The present study provides the first evidence that sunlight may rapidly inactivate SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces, suggesting that persistence, and subsequently exposure risk, may vary significantly between indoor and outdoor environments. Additionally, these data indicate that natural sunlight may be effective as a disinfectant for contaminated non-porous material

       At Frieze Francesca Wade writes about The Man Who Made the News Novelesque, Félix Fénéon; he's been getting more attention recently because of the alas-only-accessible-online-for-now exhibit at the New York Museum of Modern Art, Félix Fénéon: The Anarchist and the Avant-Garde -- From Signac to Matisse and Beyond
       The New York Review Books collection Novels in Three Lines
 is certainly worth picking up, too.