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Nota Bene Archive

3-D cave paintings
Eadweard Muybridge
God-loving linguists
The origin of dogs
TNR’s favorite WikiLeaks
Skeptical fun (video)
Building Stonehenge
Vikings in America
The Wiki-obvious
Atlantic’s Best Books 2010
Cranky Saul Bellow
The coin toss
Al-Qaeda in Macy’s parade
Pilgrims vs the TSA
Look up to him
100% CGI imagery
Autistic philosophers
Cars that drive themselves?
Marrying beneath her
NYC as nudgocracy
30 airports in 30 days.
Henryk Gorecki R.I.P.
Two Indias
Stop Berlusconi, please!
What makes countries corrupt
Suckiness of a reviewer
Why philosophy?
Maps for the 21st century
War on pot
Signs for sanity and/or fear
In twenty-five words or less
Richard T. Gill R.I.P.
Useful dog tricks (video)
Why inflight meals have no taste
Turn off your cellphone?
Hockney’s iPad art
Marjorie Morningstar
McDonald’s makeover
The past was in color
Scale of the universe
Benoît Mandelbrot, R.I.P.
Big questions
Russia’s new secret weapon
Real men cry
iPad nemesis
Against hipsters
Decorative gourd season
Old paintings, new tech
The Sound of Science (video)
2010 Ig Nobel winners
Days with Tony Curtis
Margaret Atwood (video)
Construction crew food truck
Billy Collins on poetry
Today’s poem
Maps of Europe
New-found Lucian Freud
National Punctuation Day
Eat, love, pray for it to end
How fast can we run?
Supermarket Viagra
Why do we like chillies?
Jon Stewart’s March
Are video games art?
Defending football
Judge Judy (half speed)
ELIZA is alive and well
Can an e-book be burnt?
Kill a fly, kill a man
Write less badly
The idea of a yard sale
Killed for a bite mark
Koran burning
The Czar’s lost gold hoard
Creepy crawlies
Footage fetish
Ten psychology myths
Blair’s deplorable memoirs
Bach as anti-depressant
Visa-free travel
The thorium solution
3-D is dying, again
Kodak color movie, 1922
Love me, love my books
Against beach reading
John Baldessari
What they read in Gitmo
Boeing 747 gets a paint job
Bernard Knox R.I.P.
Margaret Drabble in Florence
The Mind-Set List
Stalking the wild typo
Demand a crunchier outside!
Dictating a masterpiece
Horse plays with ball
Does coffee work?
Hugo Chávez’s mental health
Obama’s economic advisors
Scariest airports
Evolutionary psych (video)
If Cheney plotted 9/11...
Hitchens on his cancer
Know the law!
Graham Greene
Verb that noun!
Cosmetic-counter makeover
Off the beaten canon
Text phobic Americans
Trivial WikiLeaks
“State of the art”
Niall Ferguson
Revenge of Conrad Black
Greek railway system
Rupert Murdoch’s paywall
Memorizing Milton
Recent human evolution
Fidel Castro, opinionator
Auschwitz dance video
Costanza’s Steinbrenner
Molehill mountains
We need a Tech Sabbath
Harvey Pekar R.I.P.
Eadweard Muybridge
Feeling Facebook fatigue?
Hopper’s Nighthawks
Online dating: Yuk! (video)
A gentler Conrad Black
Germany should win
Big, scary 15% reds
Making fun of Indians
Beryl Bainbridge R.I.P.
Harold Bloom
Christopher Hitchens is ill
2010 Bulwer-Lytton results
Noisy Louvre
Pierre Hadot R.I.P.
Watermelon art
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Beauty deception
Penn Jillette interview
My iPad day
José Saramago R.I.P.
Competition for Kindle
Airbrushed history
Where Americans move
Good-bye to New York City
Women in science
Kafka and the oil spill
And now, Lady Gaga Studies
Mysteries of the first humans
Being grumpy is good for you
How many have died in Iraq?
Yosemite: a Chinese view
Artists are crazy
Artists’ day jobs
Pacific islands not shrinking
That almost perfect game
Now, salt hysteria
Open wine bottle with shoe
France’s plot against Germany
Louise Bourgeois R.I.P.
Business card history
The armchair issue
Junk food addiction
Existentialist fireman
Really stupid questions
Black Eyed Peas tour
$100 million Picasso?
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
The case for men’s studies
Cultural geneaology
Your new college graduate
Food fashion
Voter coercion in Britain
Walker Percy’s weird book
Books on Paris
Red ink grades
Polanski loses support
Helping to save Newsweek
Who invented the cocktail?
Chopin too girlie?
Grandad’s beautiful mind
Cleaning oiled birds
Our Neanderthal ancestry
That zany Moammar Gadhafi
Talking with Tony Judt
Chinglish howlers
PIGS and euros
Voyager spacecraft playlist
Picasso in order
Fake Picasso
Lit theory influence (none)
Al-Qaeda needs suicide bombers
More volcano fallout
Alan Sillitoe R.I.P.
“Imam for Peace”
John Cage on a game show
Reverse graffiti
Volcano sunsets
Fun with old Soviet statues
Books and their covers
Air pollution shortage
“Freshly ground black people”
Best-dressed women in fiction
Peak everything
The new KFC sandwich
Disaster porn
Don’t change that password!
China’s tacky buildings
Women Don’t Want Macho Men
Bullshit artists
World’s ugliest statues
Smart girls drink more?
Rude audiences
Leave the Pope alone
Cross-cultural madness
The price of a woman’s egg
Writers’ working methods
Pierre Boulez at 85
Prozac for your dog
More bullshit news (video)
Karl Stead, winner
Bullshit news
Microbrew label art
Was Lincoln gay?
Grumpy Robert Hughes
Wolfgang Wagner R.I.P.
The ethical dog
Checking into prison
Leif Ove Andsnes
Green selfishness?
Four stories through history
Honey trap
Academic snobs
Computer games
Sartre and Beauvoir film
Peculiar be thy name
In praise of jet lag
Daily world air traffic
Jonathan Safran Foer
Darwin and Harlequin
Hamas traitor
Future of criticism
J. Edgar Hoover gossip
Whale rebellion
Martha C. Nussbaum
Climate science matters
Defining conservatism badly
Male/female age preferences
Sex fantasies good for you
Drunk Kerouac interviewed
New Zealand’s volcanoes
The Dresden tragedy
Descartes poisoned?
Incendiary blog post
Why Orwell endures
Chinese love consultants
Faulkner and plantation diary
Idiotic winter drivers
The Olympics? Why bother?
Duped Lévy
NYC restaurant critics
Old cars (watch to end!)
Classical top ten
Korean electric grid
The Hitler testicle joke
Renoir’s wine glasses
Writers who hate writers
Danger and memory
Last Neanderthals
Food porn
“Blonde warrior princesses”
Meeting John Wayne
Earl Wild R.I.P.
Tourists’ dumb questions
What ailed Darwin?
George Leonard R.I.P.
P.C. never died
Blaming God for Haiti
Terry Castle
France owes Haiti
Dan Dennett on religion
Travel and smell
Grammar Can Be Fun
Wind-up laptop
Elite young pianist
The cursing mommy cooks
British book burning
Kenneth Noland R.I.P.
Stop saying that!
Smart dolphins
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Americans, plugged in and on the move, are confiding in their pets, their laptops, and their spouses. But more and more, they are loners... more»
Who owns art stolen in war? To return plunder to its owners may seem easy, but in practice it’s very hard, especially for objects seized in the distant past... more»
Who, if anyone, will stop Iran before it goes nuclear, and how? If things remain on the current course, an Israeli air strike looms... more» ... more»
Neanderthals were kissing cousins of our more direct ancestors, it seems. In fact, there may have been more than a little kissing... more»
Ugliest animals. From star-nosed moles to blobfish to warthogs, we find some animals downright repulsive. Are we being unfair, or what?... more»
The late Patricia Neal and her husband, “Roald the Rotten.” were not made for each other. Or maybe they were ... Neal obit ... Dahl memoir
David Mamet has turned on the liberal pieties that he sees as having governed his youth. But have his new politics improved his plays?... more»
Tony Judt, historian, polemicist, man of ideas, brave chronicler of the disease that slowly killed him, is dead at the age of 62 ... Forward ... LAT ... NYT ... Telegraph ... Time ... Observer ... Chron Higher Ed (earlier) ... New Statesman ... AP ... Independent ... Guardian ... Wash Post ... LAT ... n+1 ... Dissent ... A Cambridge memoir
The Himalayas, the Atlantic Ocean, planet Earth itself: they look solid enough, but they are maybe better understood not as places, but as processes... more»
A bogus history of Afghanistan is not a good foundation for making policy to deal with the country’s problems, says Christian Caryl... more»
Saddam Hussein drained the wetlands of southern Iraq to punish the Marsh Arabs. Now a courageous U.S. Iraqi wants to restore the marshes... more»
Michael Bellesiles was drummed out of academe over his book about guns in America. Does he deserve a second chance?... more»
Warner Oland’s Charlie Chan, with his fortune-cookie English, became one of the most hated characters in American popular culture... more»
The gears of the mind evolved in ancient ecological and economic contexts. To grasp them, Jonathan Haidt looks both up to culture and down to neurons... more»
The utter mysteriousness of existence was deeply felt by Chekhov, who also could not keep his eyes off the teeming variety of human forms... more»
Rhapsodies to machines that tamed nature, say, the steam engine, have given way to impatience with machines that don’t instantly indulge our whims... more»
Agnostics see atheism as “a theism” – as much a childlike, faith-based creed as the most orthodox of ordinary religions... more»
China’s audacious gamble: to mount an ambitious public information campaign abroad while denying crucial information to its own people... more»
Everyone agrees that food portion sizes in depictions of the Last Supper have grown over the centuries. Not everyone agrees why... more»
Modern medicine is good at staving off death, but bad at knowing when to focus, instead, on improving the days that terminal patients have left... more»
Libertarians need Charles Darwin because a Darwinian science of human evolution supports classical liberalism... Larry Arnhart ... P.Z. Myers ... Lionel Tiger ... Herbert Gintis ... response
Communism no longer inspires China, which needs an ideology rooted in old traditions. Confucianism fills the bill... more»
Q: What makes a good copy editor? A: Self-doubt. Before you change, ask yourself if the writer did it for a reason. Maintain eternal vigilance... more»
Sarah Palin wanted to “refudiate” backers of a mosque near the WTC site. Not bad, come to think of it, as a portmanteau coinage... more»
Materialist vs. mystic. Does the brain imagine a soul to take the sting out of mortality? Maybe the soul just allows the brain to pretend to be in control... more»
The most fundamental change in Beijing’s new view of the West lies in the notion that the U.S. is no longer indispensable to China... more»
Ottoman cosmopolitanism: Jews, Arabs, Copts, even Freemasons lived side by side, with tolerance and good humor. What went wrong? When?... more»
An intelligent computer, aware of nothing, can say, “That makes me happy,” without feeling happy – seeming to act like an intelligent human being... more»
Reconciliation is a lovely idea for the sentimentalist. How much value is it to actual victims of genocide in Rwanda?... more»
It’s miracle medicine, to be sure. If homeopathy worked at all, the Germans are at last finding out, it would be a miracle... more»
The art of slow reading. We need to return to a practice of stopping while we read, turning ideas over in our minds, exploring the depths of thought... more»
Penn and Teller’s act has no showgirls, fireworks, or tigers. It is suffused with a kind of irony, skepticism, and beauty seldom seen in Las Vegas... more»
We can praise the framers for an ability to compromise, and thus give us the Constitution. But they evaded an issue it took the Civil War to resolve... more»
We might with existing DNA from caves clone a Neanderthal liver. But why not go all the way and clone a complete living, uh, person?... more»
Steampunk: a bizarre subculture that romanticizes Victorian-era machines and Jules Verne is steadily entering the mainstream... more»
Free trade and a never-ending exchange of ideas offers us an inexhaustible river of invention and discovery. Matt Ridley on wealth and growth... more»
Sophisticated intellectuals are more open to new information than others. That’s what you’d expect, anyway. But you’d be wrong... more»
“The Interview,” writes Mark Twain in a new-found essay, “was not a happy invention. It is perhaps the poorest of all ways of getting at what is in a man”... more» ... Meanwhile, a newly edited, complete version of his autobiography is about to appear... more»
What is Google Maps? A place to record the disputed territory claims of nation states, or a higher court where we can appeal those claims?... more»
Across the land, in colleges at every level of quality, students are spending far less time studying than they did thirty years ago... more» ... Why? A few theories
Institutions progress but human beings don’t, says Roger Scruton, and the human capacity for cruelty and violence is, alas, infinite... more»
All that prancing about by the clergy in elaborate, colorful costumes. Is there a deeply repressed homosexual streak in the modern Church? Is the Pope gay?... more»
Europeans and Americans are thought to be very different. Wrong, argues Peter Baldwin, who prefers to call them identical cousins... more»
American blacks are victims of a history of slavery and racism. Does it follow that their salvation must be engineered by government? Amy Wax says no... more»
The Shakers were good, plain, celibate folks who made great furniture. Yes, and when it came to breaking up families, they could be master villains... more»
“Events happen in Burma, and then they are systematically unhappened.” Consider the dreadful cyclone of 2008, and how many chickens it killed... more»
Ernest Gellner was instinctively opposed to all lazy thinking, clichés of the right or the left. He was, of course, attacked by academics through his life... more»
White guilt. Making guilty noises signals status and sophistication, with high priests of the intelligentsia earning psychic wages, like bankers’ bonuses... more»
The subatomic world is the perfect arena for imaginative theory and sheer fantasy. Jeremy Bernstein is a man who knows the difference... more»
Women in the 20th century moved toward more autonomy, self-confidence, skills, and income, with many individuals caught in the confusion... more»
Was it the starry firmament above, or maybe sand cascading through someone’s open fingers? What experience incited the first intuitions of infinity?... more»
Having set before Americans the highest ideals of gastronomy, France has a unique power to let Americans down. And so it has, argues Michael Steinberger... more»
God 2.0. The quantum flapdoodle of New Age author Deepak Chopra is a failed effort to update medieval theology... more»
Anarchists were for Marx wild children who were incapable of building a new social order. Yes, but they saw the authoritarian bent in Marxism... more»
The 17th century saw the creation of a feedback loop: liberty and science begat prosperity, which begat more liberty and technology, which begat... more»
For Kai Bird, two tragedies – the Shoah and the Palestinian exodus of 1948, known as the Nakba – are “the bookends of my life”... more»
Spies? Fools and traitors. “Pansies, sadists, and drunkards, people who play cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives”... more»
“I am myself the matter of my book” wrote Michel de Montaigne. He knew that by being so, he was engaged in producing something wholly original... more»
Women can be as immoral, malicious, and violent as chaps. Anyone shocked by this hasn’t paid attention in history class, let alone the nightly news... more»
Arundhati Roy now trades in the wildest forms of anti-Americanism and the crudest critiques of capitalism. She has become an outright reactionary... more»
Emily Dickinson’s father viewed his son’s work as near to Shakespeare. He didn’t see that his tiny daughter in her velvet snood was a great poet of her age... more»
Kaiser Wilhelms plan was to unleash the furies of Islamic power, a jihad, on the British Raj and harness the glories of the Near East to German interests... more»
The American character” as a phrase sounds rather antiquated. Yet it still has life in it, or so sociologist Claude S. Fischer sets out to demonstrate... more»
Mathematician as romantic hero. The idea still has appeal, though it seems today slightly less than fully grown up. Consider Évariste Galois... more»
Abhorring animal cruelty does not entail the idea that all animals, humans included, sit at the same moral level. Peter Singer has an argument to answer... more»
Voting systems. Choose them we must, while realizing that there is no single system perfect for all peoples in every historical epoch... more»
Charles Rosen describes the romantic sensibility as a craving for emotional experience, an aesthetic of rising sentiment... more»
The sonnet is with us still: to write a sonnet is to join in a line of poets that stretches back for centuries... more»
“My time will come,” Gustav Mahler used to say when he felt unappreciated. He was right, of course. But is he now overrated? Or just overhyped... more»
Mark Zborowski’s Life is with People portrays a world he knew to be darker and more complex than the bright story he tells... more»
Tolstoys death drama was Russia’s first great mass media event. The rail station where he died became the eye of a news hurricane... more»
Novelist E.M. Forster knew nothing about sex until late in his life – and things only got worse once he learned... more»
If income inequality makes for a less healthy society, why not exile the rich, or censor the media, so the poor can’t know how poor they are?... more»
Intelligence, self-possession, and a sense of maturity. If this be wisdom, will we learn more about it from literature and history, or from neuroscience?... more»
Hitler was no buffoon. It took a malign genius to rise from Vienna’s slums and carry out the conquest of western Europe. Hugh Trevor-Roper grasped this... more»
Suppose Mary had given birth, among her various children, to twins. One was named Jesus, the other she called Christ. Let’s say they had different talents... more»
Conrad Blacks prison education. In 28 months and 18 days he learned of the fallibility of the U.S. justice system, which convicts more innocent people than we can ever know... more»
Soccer punditry is no doubt the most facile and inconsequential form of writing known to man. So why shouldn’t the New York Review of Books try its hand at it?... more»
Some Pakistanis blame Afghan immigrants for bringing “their” war into Pakistan. Here is an Afghan baker’s story of harassment, corruption, and exile... more»
Surveillance can keep us on the moral straight and narrow, cultivating good habits. But it stands in the way of more saintly ideals, says Emrys Westacott... more»
“You’re not getting any part of me,” Robin said. “I’m being frozen.” “No.” Peggy said. “Your head is being frozen. I get the rest of you”... more»
“In the grip of a neurological disorder,” writes Tony Judt, “I am fast losing control of words even as my relationship with the world has been reduced to them”... more»
Every household in North Korea is provided with a white cloth, to be used exclusively for cleaning the portraits Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il... more»
What we hear in poems, says Tom McCarthy, is not selves, but networks, not signal but noise. Rilke called it Geräusch, the crackle of the universe, angels dancing in the static... more»
David Greybeard, Goliath, Gremlin, Fifi, Olly, and the murderous cannibals Passion and Pom: Jane Goodall remembers them all. Chimpanzees of Gombe... more»
The 1950s, a.k.a. the “Age of Anxiety,” began a golden age of mental illness. Signs and symptoms – alcoholism, depression, neurosis, delinquency – were rampant. Right up to the present... more»
Baseball: the perfect game, the very Platonic ideal of organized sport, the “moving image of eternity” in athleticis. America’s grand gift to posterity... more»
Where does our sense of right and wrong come from? Is it a gift from God? From innate human reason? Moral naturalists take a different approach, says David Brooks... more»
BP’s incompetence with Deepwater Horizon has made 2010 likely the worst oil-spill year since 1979. Still, says Matt Ridley, it is not quite the disaster TV would portray... more»
Barack Obama backers have swallowed painful policy compromises over the last months, says Eric Alterman. But if you can’t have the whole hog, better a ham sandwich than hunger... more»
The intense life of classical music across the world today – stunning performances, countless recordings, legions of fans – testifies to its deep roots in human feeling... more»
If God occasionally intervenes in the world to shoot down an atheist – to show who’s boss – it makes sense for Him to target the esophagus, says Carlin Romano... more»
If the existence of post-traumatic stress disorder is a function of how its victims subjectively feel, then not only being in battle, but hearing about battle can cause trauma... more»
Amputation sans anaesthesia. North Korea’s health system, the head of WHO has said, is the envy of developing nations. Amnesty Int’l please shut up... more» ... the Amnesty report (PDF).
Nicholas Carr loves the Web – don’t we all love new information? Trouble is, we don’t stop to think deeply about what all those new facts mean... more»
Tibet: a land where childlike monks and nuns smile softly all day long? A place of stillness, calm, and wondrous spiritual energy? Only in the romantic imagination... more»
The New World was named for Amerigo Vespucci, but the naming may be the work of an obscure Alsatian scholar and proofreader, one Mattias Ringmann... more» ... more»
Mother Nature is a complex system with webs of interdependence and a robust ecology. Nassim Taleb also thinks of her as a very old, wise person with an impeccable memory... more»
A perception of unfairness is a major driver of anger as a human emotion. It is not too far, David Barash suggests, to speak of our having a fairness instinct... more»
Commitments to the truth, humility, patience, and charity are central to the idea of a university. Without them you may achieve a knowledge economy, but never a wisdom society... more»
Can video games be works of art? BioShock has aesthetic qualities and expresses emotions: crushing peril, tenderness, surprise, awe. Why not call it art?... more»... Ebert: video games will never be art.
Christopher Hitchens: the true jigsaw puzzle of this enigmatic man may never be solved, but Michael Weiss offers his own attempt to squeeze the pieces together... more»
A thousand years of economic bubbles, panics, and collapses shows that investors always think “this time is different.” We’re not as naive as our parents or their parents. Oh, yeah?... more»
Vegans are trapped by their hopeless longing for innocence. But there is no innocence, except for the dead, says Harold Fromm. “To be alive is to be a murderer”... more»
Natural libertarians have a distinctive view of life. They’re convinced no one can know their interests better than they do. Loving their own freedom, they don’t aspire to control others... more»
To Kill a Mockingbird. It endorses the obvious, and congratulates the reader for agreeing with the endorsement. It’s America’s most overrated book... more»
The decline of the actual, physical book is taking longer than it was supposed to. Is it possible we have not understood what books are actually for? Nathan Schneider wonders... more»
Snobbery. Theodore Dalrymple admits that deep within he is a frightful snob, a man who can feel only contempt for people who regard the World Cup as important... more»
Who has first claim on breasts, lovers or babies? Women are so often told breasts are man-magnets that many find it impossible to believe anything else... more»
In Vladimir Nabokov’s work, the kindliness of memory recreates Eden, just as perversity razes it to the ground. His memories of Berlin... more»
In A Simple Heart, Gustave Flaubert took a good, ordinary, but not intelligent person, entered into her world, and made her genuinely interesting, even admirable. What an artistic feat... more»
William James: just about the only philosopher who didn’t end up as either a pettifogging nit-picker or an overbearing egomaniac with delusions of genius... more» Over the last fifty years, one of the least important aspects of government – kvetching, the inner soap opera – has become among the most important. Enter Stanley McChrystal... more»
Marie Antoinette was a spendthrift, gambler, and libertine, to be sure, but she did not deserve the avalance of defamation that finally overwhelmed her... more»
Appeasement” is a word with a very bad ring to it – Munich and all that. Paul Kennedy thinks we ought to reconsider the benefits of the idea... more»
Decent scholarship is drowning in an ocean of low-quality journal articles. The current emphasis on academic career advancement via quantity of publications has to stop... more»
Anonymous online comment forums, with their anything-goes ethos, are seen as bastions of free speech. And, alas, of venomous abuse. Have they outlived their utility?... more»
It’s the 12th annual Junk Science Week, and the Financial Post has awarded its coveted Rubber Duckies for the latest in the abuse and misuse of science ... cellphones reduce brain tumor risk ... better boil that T-bone ... cooked-up climate science ... plastic causes cancer ... fishy fish farm science ... miracle job benefits of solar cells ... BPA panic ... bogus Afghan mineral bonanza ... global warming politics.
Journalism has taken over from fiction in showing the gritty realities – the morality and futility, the mess – of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, argues Geoff Dyer... more»
In praise of tough criticism. Jeffrey Di Leo wants to see academics develop thicker skins and more rugged tools in tearing apart each other’s arguments... more»
What mysterious ultramagnetic force does Prince Charles possess such that he can attract every moon-faced spoon-bender, shrub-flatterer, and water-diviner within range?... more»
Man is the only animal that likes Tabasco sauce, or string quartets. What are the ancient sources of these pleasures? Paul Bloom has some answers... part 1 ... part 2 ... part 3 ... part 4
Charles de Gaulle was a colossus for most of my life,” writes Neal Ascherson: malign, conceited, aloof, and worth dying for. He understood the tempests of his century... more»
Promoting gender equity in the sciences is, all agree, a worthy cause. But varied career choices women and men make are not easy to analyze, says John Tierney... more» ... earlier article.
Dilbert creator Scott Adams’s personal road to stock market riches: put your money on companies that you hate the most. BP, for a start... more»
Many colleges now use summer reading programs to inflict moral nostrums on incoming freshmen. Leon Botstein argues instead for a brush with classic, difficult, unfamiliar ideas... more»
For Gramsci, the prestige of dominant elites brings lower orders to abandon traditional values. But this won’t work in every national context. Consider the Tea Party rallies... more»
Google, rock videos, and the Web will no more make you stupid and shallow than propping a heavy encyclopedia on your lap will make you smart and deep, argues Steven Pinker... more»
Why are the British so rude, so uncouth? They seem obsessed with butts, tits, penises, toilet humor, strange sex. Their sitcoms offer howling tsunamis of verbal abuse... more»
Robert Boyle, Thomas Hyde, and Shen Fuzong. From China to the England of the 1680s, theirs was a true meeting of brilliant minds. Jonathan Spence explains.... more»
In some cyborg future, the enemies of mankind – disease, ageing, incapacity, death – may well be vanquished. But by that very token, it will not be our future... more»
John Templeton wanted to hijack the meaning of life, to find a spirituality finally worthy of mankind’s great scientific achievements. ... more»
It’s an honorable and decent thing to sympathize with people less fortunate than you. But virtues are turned into vices by excess, insincerity, and loose thinking... more»
Why is so much contemporary art so awful? We’re in the death throes of modernism, says Ben Lewis. It isn’t the first time artistic greatness has collapsed into decadence... more»
“It is the time for Jews to confront the eternal truth of our stupidity as a people, which I will stack, blunder for blunder, against that of any other nation,” writes Michael Chabon... more»
Hitler’s war against Russia was his to lose. He was on the verge of victory, but Stalin’s willingness to sacrifice 27 million Soviet citizens did him in... more»
The arrest in 1894 of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus for revealing French military secrets to the German embassy rocked a nation. Its echoes are heard still... more»
Bullfighting, Ernest Hemingway held, was not a sport at all, but a tragedy – a play with only danger for the man, but certain death for the animal... more»
“Cowardly, despicable, weak, and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology, and religion.” Few groups can compare with Jews as targets of hatred... more»
Progressive Australians once wanted health, literacy, and a place in the modern world for Aborigines. This went dead against the romantic ideal of the primitive... more»
Just as Chomsky blew B.F. Skinner out of the water with his innatism in the 1950s, so Jerry Fodor wants to do the same to Charles Darwin. The signs so far... more»
The internet “scatters our attention,” says Nicholas Carr, turning us “into lab rats pressing levers to get tiny pellets of social and intellectual nourishment”... more»
Robert McCrum sees English as in some way uniquely “direct” and “universal” and therefore well-suited to bestride the modern world. He’s wrong... more»
Historically the left supported growth and mass prosperity. Today, radicals demonize shopping and want limits to economic growth... more»
Cycles of American foreign policy: first success, then hubris, leading to tragedy, then maybe, to wisdom. So back to a new adventure: success, then... more»
For black students, is doing well at school equated with “acting white”? And is this problem peculiar only to blacks, a special kind of anti-intellectualism?... more»
Pliny the Younger was no genius, but he keeps our attention, writing of an odd dream, a horrific murder, domestic scandals, or a frolicing dolphin... more»
Why do so many predictions made by putative experts – scientists, finance gurus, health officials – turn out to be flat-out wrong?... more»
Socialism was a fine aspiration in the mind of G.A. Cohen. But even he felt that F.A. Hayek had fingered a reason we may never be able to institute it... more»
The Enlightenment inspired smart people in Manchester and Scotland who stole each others’ ideas and put them to use, making the Industrial Revolution... more»
Between university philosophers with their high abstractions and the glib advice of self-help gurus, there lies the Stoicism of Marcus Aurelius... more»
Since the 15th century, the world has been taught by Europe and exploited by Europe and made by Europe. Maybe Europe has had enough... more»
Évariste Galois marks a turn from viewing mathematics as a kind of natural study to mathematics as a pure, abstract realm of its own... more»
From wartime Britain to the glittering balls of John Kennedys D.C., Bill Patten Jr. tells his family saga. He may dislike the morality of his tale, but... more»
Emily Dickinson was a powerful artist who was intimidated by nothing – the very opposite of a lovelorn, fear-driven recluse and spinster... more»
Charles Dickens’s characters, children of his fancy, are utterly spoiled: they shake the house and smash the story with an unbridled sense of life... more»
Sylvia Beach and Margaret Anderson: often called midwives of Modernism, it may be better to think of them as its electrical infrastructure... more»
They can wreck marital life, and make cooking, shopping, even housework less of a pleasure. If kids make us so miserable, why do we want them at all?... more»
Connoisseurship is not the only way to determine the authenticity of a painting. Works of art are handled by owners and artists. All leave fingerprints... more»
Neuroscientist Jim Fallon had for 20 years studied the brains of psychopaths. Then his mother told him he was related to Lizzie Borden. So he decided... part 1 ... part 2 ... part 3

In 1913, 54,000 old Gettysburg soldiers came together in peace on the battlefield to celebrate American unity. An event still to remember... more» ... more»
The Declaration of Independence in an early draft uses subjects for the people of the colonies. Jefferson, new analysis shows, changed it to citizens... more»
Modernist architecture – cold, alienating – was widely loathed. Postmodernism was but a fig leaf for it. Enter the authentic genius of Frank Gehry... more»
Michael Bellesiles, who teaches military history, knows his job is easier in peace time. When the brother of one of his students was killed in Iraq... more»
Supreme Court confirmation hearings were not always so contentious. In fact, till Lyndon Johnson got the idea to replace Earl Warren with Abe Fortas... more»
Strict Islamist states fear pleasure, and so reject playfulness, laughter, and displays of fashion at the heart of human life... more»
Adolf Hitlers cell in Landsberg Prison looked like a well-stocked deli: fruit, wine, flowers, ham, sausage, cake, chocolates. He got quite fat ... more»
Robert Schumann wrote almost all of his music in a trance, at unbelievable speed. Yet he showed always incredible self-control... more»
“Youre a white guy, so you put on a suit, shake some hands, and take home $1000 a week.” Chinese firms need fake Western businessmen... more»
Simone de Beauvoir’s translators and their critics have turned their disputes into a play where each acts the role assigned by theatrical cliché... more»
Computer-based program trading has changed forever the nature of global investing. If only computers could grasp the meaning of terms like “panic”... more»
Composer biopics, normally high on corn, can deliver their share of pleasures, says Ray Sawhill. But when will we ever see The Anton Webern Story?... more»
Having kidswhats in it for me? The economics of happiness, nature and nurture has an answer: Parents’ sacrifice is much smaller than it looks... more»
Not such a catastrophe? “To be honest, a couple of years after the big 1979 Gulf spill, almost everything was close to 100% normal again”... more»
Norman Macrae, who for forty years gave spirit and intellectual originality to the pages of The Economist, is dead at the age of 89... more»
It’s a year since the election and riots in Iran. Under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad life is more grim than ever... more» ... analysis by Reuel Marc Gerecht ... letters to a husband in prison.
The ravening US consumer appears to be finished as the world’s buyer of last resort. Time for post-bubble Americans to turn to a study of Marx... more»
We may not be comfortable to admit it, says Julian Baggini, but in practice, if not theory, we think it’s possible to put too much value on a human life... more»
The vampire story was born in the 19th century, wicked love child of rural folklore and urban decadence, refined from the raw ore of peasant superstition... more»
As pieces of Henry Roths amorphous body of writing are sliced off and honed as “novels” and “stories,” his very sense of life may be polished out of his work... more»
Recognizing that error is an inevitable part of our lives frees us from the impossible burden of trying to be permanently right... more»
Poetry and applied mathematics mix apples and oranges, says Joel Cohen. They aspire to combine multiple meanings and beauty using symbols... more»
Two cheers for intuition. It is not always wrong, but neither is it a shortcut around the hard work of logical analysis, deliberation, and rational choice... more»
Sex and the City 2 takes all I hold dear as a woman and a human – working hard, contributing to society – and rapes it to death with a stiletto that costs more than my car”... more»
E.M. Forster imagined a more tolerant future for gay people. But did laws against homosexuality make him a better writer? How little we know about the nature of inspiration... more»
Backlash! East Coast critics are shocked to find out that the new L.A. Philharmonic director, Gustavo Dudamel, is not Wilhelm Furtwängler... Anne Midgette ... Midgette, earlier ... James Rainey ... Tom Huizenga
Readers are fleeing newspapers in droves. What can the papers offer to lure them back? P.J. ORourke has a bright idea: the pre-obituary... more»
It could be that in few decades, Europe will be but the northern part of the Maghreb. But maybe North Africa and the Middle East will by then be far more Europeanized... more»
Evolution is not an enemy of religion, but a friend, says Francisco Ayala. For it, disease, death, and the cruelties of organic life result from merely natural processes... more»
The only mass use of germ weapons in modern times was by Japan’s infamous Unit 731 between 1932 and 1945. Perhaps half a million Chinese died in a series of atrocities... more»
Two boys, aged 10 and 11, convicted at the Old Bailey of rape of a younger girl who’d withdrawn the charge. Exploited children, adult fantasies... more»
Tariq Ramadan, called a “Muslim Martin Luther,” and “prophet of a new Euro-Islam,” is a brave man, it seems. But brave in the face of what?... more»
Great museums take us deeper into works of art, and deeper into ourselves. Albert Barnes knew this. Moving his museum to Philadelphia is a crime against his art – and his museum... more»
Annapolis and West Point no longer aim at academic excellence. Petty, soul-killing rules and winning football teams are enough for them... more»
In telling stories to children, Germaine Greer felt she was doing something as old as the human race, a task women – mothers, nurses, slaves, peasants – had always done... more»
“I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one.” Ayn Rand also regarded herself as simply “the most creative thinker alive”... more»
Jan Morris, master impressionist, and V.S. Naipaul, always turning over the same questions. As travel writers, Pico Iyer explains, they are extremes on a continuum... more»
Obsessions with victimhood and the Holocaust are dying among America’s secular Jewish youth. The old dreams of Zionism are not what they were... more»
In a literary age dominated by absurdists, genre benders, and hysterical realists, Francine Prose quietly goes about her work in the great tradition of the novel... more»
Ought scientists accommodate themselves to the idea of areas of knowledge that are off-limits to their inquiry? Is this what “respect for religion” means?... more»
German novels are like German cars, says Hans Magnus Enzensberger. “Core competence and diligence, but they are not particularly exciting or surprising or interesting”... more»
Maybe, argues Marilynne Robinson, we are more than an optimized ape: perhaps something terrible and glorious and quite mysterious befell us... more»
Toynbee’s books, gassy, shapeless, unhistorical monsters, were no model for Hugh Trevor-Roper. His only competitor was Gibbon himself... more»
Gorbachev laughed about the downing of Korean flight 007, and cared nothing for Tiananmen victims. Then there’s Neil Kinnock. Joe Biden, even. Random House, please explain... more»
How did the study of literature as an art come to be replaced by the mix of bad philosophy and worse prose academics call Theory? Where is Jorge Luis Borges when you need him?... more»
Is the “New Atheism” the cultural watershed its purveyors like to think, or a marketing vogue, bound to go the way of pet rocks, disco, and prime-time soaps?... more»
Ray Bradburys stories still sing on the page because they aren’t about technologies of robots, automated houses, and rocket men, but about how people live... more»
Strange to recall that linguists in the 1980s were predicting that fragmented English was doomed as a world tongue. Quite to the contrary... more»
No self-respecting professor of philosophy wants to discuss the soul in class. It reeks of old-time theology, or worse, New Age quantum treacle... more»
Rather than pointing fingers, Greeks should look in the mirror, says Theodore Dalrymple. And how about Britain, which has now become the Greece of the North Sea?... more»
Medical Hypotheses, a journal created in order to air and scientifically debate controversial ideas, has had its editor fired. Seems he allowed the debate of controversial ideas... more»
When The Onion reported, “New Study Reveals Most Children Unrepentant Sociopaths,” it supported a tradition going back to Freud. Are small children actually moral beings?... more»
How did we get here? How did we get to the point where just about every new classical dance, with the hippest costumes on the hottest bodies, is meaningless?... more»
A capacity for embarrassment is a marker of normal humanity. Or at least it should be. Why has it fallen into such decline? Christine Rosen wonders... more»
Sexual reproduction in animals tends to generate an array of offspring, says David Barash, making for healthy genetic diversity. In fact, we need individuality to survive... more»
Why cry over split milk? Especially when served with a nice peanut better sandwhich? Typos are a way of life, and not only here at Arts & Letters Dialy... more»
3-D movies infantilize the medium, dim the retinal image, degrade dramatic experience, nauseate viewers, and inflate ticket prices, says Roger Ebert... more»
Why is it that a personal, hand-drawn map can be so very much more useful than a map pulled off the Web? Julia Turner wonders... more»
Naomi Kleins No Logo became a research bible for marketers selling to consumers who wanted meaning, integrity, and moral purpose in their shopping carts. Thank you, Naomi!... more»
Attention, Whole Foods shoppers! Your worries about “sustainability,” organic onions, and saving the planet do nothing for the plight of the world’s poorest people... more»
It’s a trillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, and you are in it up to your eyes. The U.S. government issues more and more debt to pay off previous debt. One day, we’ll wake up... more»
Whether the world is ready or not, India is set to become a global power. The United States, says C. Raja Mohan, ought to be the first to welcome the fact... more»
Makes no difference if a government borrows from foreigners or from its own citizens, banking crises can be mortal shocks for any economy. Big debt is a big danger... more»
We Boy Scouts were black, white, thin, fat, rich and poor, and united in being geeks. We rather disliked our uniforms, says Paul Theroux... more»
Hugh Trevor-Roper viewed as threadbare the notion that the lights of truth were suddenly switched on in Europe at the start of the 18th century... more»
Anthony Bourdain does food porn like no one else: the crunch of bones, scalding hot fat and guts, sublime dribbles of figs, or Armagnac... more»
Information society? More accurate to call it the interruption society. It pulverizes attention, the scarcest of all resources, and stuffs the mind with trivia... more»
Prejudice against unattractive people in the workplace runs deep. Obese women earn 12% less than thinner co-workers with similar qualifications... more»
“Keynes is back” is now a cliché. But hang on, did John Maynard Keynes, the most influential economist of the 20th century, ever leave?... more»
In his wisdom, Jean-Paul Sartre saw the problem: “In a football match, everything is complicated by the presence of the other team”... more»
The psychologist’s plan was weird, but why not try it? Place three delusional patients, each believing he is Jesus, in the same hospital ward... more»
Thomas Babington Macaulay viewed the poor and weak with indifference, and shrugged off the potato famine as a “remedy” for Irish barbarity... more»
Children of the gulags. Their parents, enemies of the state, had “abandoned” them. Only the miracle of Stalin’s love saved them... more»
Was J.D. Salinger’s long silence an act of courage to be a nobody, or a failure of courage to be famous? We may never know... more»
Few developments central to the history of art have been so misunderstood as the brief, brave, glorious, doomed life of the Bauhaus... more»
Others saw madness and aggression in Matisses work, but his one early defender among the critics, Apollinaire, saw a “Cartesian master”... more»
Collateralized debt obligations, CDOs, were piles of triple-B mortgage bonds that were going to turn to gold. What wont Wall Street believe?... more»
“Never attempt to fake reality in any manner,” Ayn Rand insisted. Of course, as Charles Murray explains, this delusional woman faked it all her life... more»
At the end, Somerset Maugham, who knew the likes of Henry James, Churchill, Dorothy Parker, and D.H. Lawrence, died raving like King Lear... more»
Communism did not do away with class: it turned the signed denunciation into the main weapon of class warfare. Vassily Grossman knew this... more»
Cold War heroine? Margaret Thatcher, it seems, a lady who knew when to be Circe and when to be the nanny from hell... more»
Third-wave feminism combined combat boots and baby-doll dresses. Barbie was a mannequin on whom you practice giving abortions... more»
Ayaan Hirsi Ali learned Dutch, became Dutch, and went to parliament, but her view of Islam was too radioactive for the timid Dutch to handle. So to the U.S... more»
Charles Dickens was for Emerson “too consummate an artist to have a thread of nature left. He daunts me! I have not the key”... more»
Curiosity about Jane Austens life, along with enthusiasm for her work, is at a frenzied level: she’s an infinitely exploited global brand... more» ... more»
The Jane Jacobs ideal of a city, with deli, hardware store, candy shop, etc., had a village authenticity. Must we forever bellyache about its passing?... more»
Arthur Koestler’s double suicide with his wife was hardly heroic. It was a sin against his own lifetime of literary work... more»
Was the cult that changed the world but a product of Paul’s evangelism? And who was this man called Jesus?... more»
What is communism? The Russian joke has it that “Communism is the longest path from capitalism and back to capitalism”... more»
Nothing succeeds like a theory of success, as books on success multiply, says Ann Hulbert. Call it the Malcolm Effect... more»
Louis Armstrong brought joy wherever he played: intelligent joy, accomplished joy, freewheeling joy, comic joy, sardonic joy... more»
“Puritan repression ” Hugh Hefner said, “is really the key that unlocks the mystery of my life.” In his way, he unlocked much else... more»
Forget biographies. The way into the life of a man as open, direct, and arrow-straight as George Orwell is his letters... more»
Moscow may have burned for six days, but still, Napoleon lost – and victory belonged to Tsar Alexander I and his generals... more»
Two travelers, an English woman and a French man, arrived in Egypt in 1849, within days of each other. Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert... more» ... more»
Diana was married in Goebbels’s drawing room with Hitler as witness. The Mitford sisters were unable to avoid the pull of cads and creeps... more»
Frances current identity crisis, in all its ferocity and venom, has deep roots in the history of Gallic society, going back long before 1789... more»
For H.G. Wells, the most prolific author of his age, writing was like scratching an endless itch. And given that he was randy as a goat... more»
What makes Martin Heideggers Nazism into a challenge, rather than merely a scandal, is that he did not drift into evil, but thought his way into it... more»
The first challenge of sorrow is cognitive, says Leon Wieseltier: “Making Toast is a small glowing jewel in the literature of grief”... more»
Why is it that when fascist ideas emanate from Islam, intellectuals prefer to call them “totalitarian”? Because the latter word is abstract, odorless, uh, nicer... more»
John Cages 4'33'' was not greeted with anything like the riot provoked by The Rite of Spring. By the 1950s, audiences knew too much... more»
The story of yoga in America is one of scandal, financial shenanigans, oversize egos, bizarre love triangles – and performing elephants... more»
David Foster Wallace. How could a writer whose prose breathed in life so fully, who wrote in the biggest, boldest type, simply silence himself?... more»
Fifty years of the pill: it has reshaped our ideas about sex, marriage, and family, turning childbearing from an obligation into an option... more»
Daily global hydrocarbon use is 200 million barrels of oil equivalent, or about 23.5 times Saudi Arabia’s daily output. To replace that with wind turbines... more»
Terry Eagleton regards two core values for a meaningful life: love and happiness – treated as ends in themselves... more»
Knut Hamsun won the Nobel Prize, but you won’t find the medal on display in Norway. The author regifted it to Joseph Goebbels... more»
Fashions in social explanation come and go, but there remains no substitute for game theory in modeling human behavior... more»
Skepticism, yes, egomania and arrogance, no. As Descartes, hero of scientists and skeptics everywhere, said, skepticism, like charity, begins at home... more»
Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini and Jerry Fodor may not be creationists, but that only makes more flagrant the stupidity of their case against Darwin... more»
Struwwelpeter, with its sadism, humor, and dark justice, is a book adults love to hate and children find enthralling. No wonder it’s in over 100 languages... more»
Shakespeare’s work is distinguished from every other great writer in the astounding comprehensiveness of his treatment of love and sex... more»
Greedy publishers gouge libraries for digital journals. Now at last the University of California libraries are ready to fight back. Jennifer Howard reports... more»
Paul Romer’s politically incorrect guide to ending poverty in the third world: time to revisit the best of colonialism... more»
In the 1950s, Sammy Davis Jr. imitated whites. Later on, as he tried to go with the times, the best he could do was to imitate being black... more»
When Xiaoda Xiao was a college student, he defaced a portrait of Chairman Mao and was sent to labor for seven years in a stone quarry. His story... more»
Religion thrives in India, with 2.5 million places of worship, but only 1.5 million schools and 75,000 hospitals. Pilgrimages are half of all package tours... more»
“When we’ve mastered the false memory recipes,” says Elizabeth Loftus, “we will need to worry about who controls them. Memory, like liberty, is a fragile thing”... more»
Air travel technology moved fast into the future: even before Orville Wright’s death in 1948, Chuck Yeager had broken the speed of sound... more»
Israel insists Gazans are not starving and there is no humanitarian crisis. So what is life like in the rubble left by years of low-level war?... more»
The Order of the Assassins was by the 11th century one of the most lethally effective terrorist groups the world has ever known... more»
Cleopatra: her world, buried in the silt and clay of the Bay of Aboukir, off the coast of Alexandria, is now brought back to life... more»
The white working class has been ignored for generations by Britain’s political elites. The result is not pretty. Americans should pay attention... more»
“It is strange how little has been written about the Upper Mississippi,” Mark Twain said. For him, it was the most arresting part of the river... more»
Events in the imagination can compel us utterly. Just as artificial sweeteners may be sweeter than sugar, unreal events may be more intense than real ones... more»
Apple, Nintendo, and Dell all make use of Foxconn to manufacture their hardware, from its factory – no, its “campus” – with those happy Foxconn workers... more»
Charles Dickens was a great travel writer because he came to realize that travel in itself is not that interesting. People are... more»
Despite the sea of women in Norman Mailer’s life – six wives and countless lovers – his great literary handicap was his failure to learn from them... more»
Pompeii may be a Unesco World Heritage Site. Yet its excavated ruins are being ruined once again – this time for good... more»
Martin Gardner, mathematical gamester and champion of science and skepticism, is dead at the age of 95... AP ... SciAm ... Discover, with tributes ... James Randi ... Roger Kimball ... SciAm profile ... Douglas Hofstadter ... Matt Parker ... Andrea Pitzer ... Stefan Kanfer ... NYT ... Wash Post ... Chris French ... Thomas Maugh ... Telegraph ... His latest Skeptical Inquirer column was on Oprah Winfrey, “gullible billionaire.”
Around 45,000 years ago what seemed just another predatory ape transformed itself into an animal that dominates its planet... more»
Christopher Hitchens says he has no heroes, but leaves the impression of being an archetypal hero worshipper. Mind you, men worth worshipping... more»
Is the so-called Climategate scandal real, or is it meant to distract us from the threats of global warming? Der Spiegel just wants to know what’s going on... more»
Gay artist, he was not. On the contrary, Thomas Hart Benton made it part of his business to “cowboy up” the image of the artist in America... more»
Temperamentally, law school profs tend to be more conservative than other academics – and they have moved even farther right since Obama was a student... more»
Ask any psycholinguist: using pronouns correctly is a lot of work. You need to balance clear reference with not beating other folks over the head... more»
Michael J. Astrue, head of U.S. Social Security, is the kind of quiet, careful civil servant that Caesar Augustus would have known. He is also a stunning poet... more»
The Oberammergau Passion Play has run for 400 years. Must Mary still be played by a virgin? What if that shepherd boy is a Muslim? Big issues for a small town... more»
In 1957, Cornelius Ryan began placing ads in newspapers, searching for men and women who had been in Normandy on June 6, 1944... more»
Unless we know how things are counted, says John Allen Paulos, we don’t know if it’s wise to count on the numbers... more»
The EU was an elite-driven, top-down affair from the start. Europe’s voters didn’t know their own good. Their betters would lead them... more»
The café of Hotel Castelar was the literary heart of Buenos Aires, visited by Lorca, Neruda, Borges. It’s coming back to life... more» ... New online: 1976 Jorge Luis Borges interview.
Fiction and other art forms make up pristine funds of data to answer vital questions about human nature. Literature is our cultural DNA... more»
The notion that the first three years of childhood deeply shape the remainder of life is seductive. But, Melvin Konner asks, is it true?... more»
Duke Ellington’s charm, drive, and singular talent place him in the musical pantheon. A man of unshakable dignity... more»
Finishing a book requires an author to make choices and foreclose possibilities. That is what Ralph Ellison was unable to do... more»
Herman Simm seemed to deserve his Order of the White Star for service to Estonia. In truth, he was the most damaging spy in the history of NATO... more»
You’re not likely to hear this from your doctor, but fake medical treatments can work amazingly well. Always did, always will... more»
Whaling in the 19th century combined cruelty, greed, nobility, courage, and generosity – and still we say, “Thank God it’s gone”... more»
Stefan Zweig, besides being one of the great authors of the 20th century, also brought together an astonishing collection of musical manuscripts... more»
Years ago, Christopher Hitchens wrote in the New Statesman that he found the new Tory leader “sexy.” Some crimes can be forgiven, others not... more»
Greece is only a start. Leading economies have long lived beyond their means. And now, ominously, the bill is coming due. Der Spiegel reports... more»
The Underdog Effect. We think we prefer to see the weaker team win. But perhaps we are just kidding ourselves... more»
When we rely on spies, Malcolm Gladwell reminds us, we rely on sources that can’t be trusted. “The next time a briefcase washes up onshore, don’t open it”... more»
The idea that soap-opera viewers might be modeling themselves on characters in As the World Turns may seem appalling. Not to worry, says Drake Bennett... more»
Like many people at Google, Franz Och sees himself as campaigning for freedom and equality. His aim: to open all the Web to non-English speakers... more»
The Europeans can come off as smug do-gooders, and their latest problems may incite Schadenfreude. But the ideals of Europe are still there to be admired... more»
Ortega y Gasset: “Culture is what remains after we’ve forgotten everything we’ve read.” And what, Sven Birkerts asks, is left after reading a novel?... more»
Adam Smith’s great book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, is a global manifesto for the interdependent world in which we live. Amartya Sen explains why... more»
The U.S. and China are locked in a kind of mutually assured economic destruction that will force cooperation even as security disputes simmer... more»
Did Einsteins first wife, Mileva Marić, make important contributions to his early scientific work, news of which has been suppressed?... more»
George Orwell’s timeless, transcendent fairy story, Animal Farm, is still outlawed by regimes around the world. Why is it such political dynamite?... more»
Down with factory farms, enormous TVs, SUVs, and outlet malls: the Simplicity Movement asks, well, for simplicity. If you’re rich enough to afford it... more»
Globalization swallows all. Countries that refuse to join in the world economic system are pushed aside, reduced, humiliated. Well, yes, but why refuse?... more»
Worst-case panic over volcanic ash and flying is not rational risk assessment, says Frank Furedi. In fact, it’s downright stupid... more» Swine flu déjà vu, writes Simon Jenkins
Journalism is reductive, says David Hare. Art opens up reality to us, making it deeper, thicker, more surprising. Art never tells you what you already know... more»
Reduced to wielding clubs, the Lords Resistance Army is as outmatched as any insurgency could be. So why can’t it be stopped?... more»
Will anyone ever write a literary biography of Nick Mamatas? “I am a failure,” he says, “so I’ve got that going for me. I suspect I’ll be long dead before I ever become interesting”... more»
Advice for the end: forget about God, death, pain, and acquisition. But does detachment from such large questions and daily dramas make life rich and complex enough to be worth living?... more»
Bernard DeVoto died in 1955, but the spirit he fought can be found today from halls of academe to late-night comics such as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert... more»
Jobbik: Hungary’s backward-looking, chauvinist party has seats in parliament for the first time, suggesting that zombie politics may have a place in Europe’s future... more»
Harold Ross ordered his New Yorker writers to stop using the word understandably. “I saw it in Life the other day and when Life takes up a word it is time for us to unload”... more»
The collusion of humane organizations and police powers of the state in seizing and killing dogs has frightening implications... more»
Bob Geldof, gruff, messy-haired savior of Africa, has been celebrated as a secular saint who brought “authenticity” to discourse about global poverty... more»
Might Flannery OConnors Catholic faith cause the brilliance of her art to fade in an age of militant secularism? Seems not, as her reputation continues to grow... more»
It’s easy to wax eloquent about the golden age of freedom in early America – so long as you forget about slavery. David Boaz explains... more»
“Politics, power, and control have no legitimate role in our community,” says one mathematician. When they encroach on research, for instance on the Poincaré conjecture... more»
Sarah Palin can talk like a child and still be lionized by perfectly intelligent people as an avatar of U.S. culture – which linguistically, let’s face it, she is... more»
Unrealistic, dithering academics keep on promoting Ph.D programs in the humanities that can lead to no jobs – taking advantage of the aspirations and idealism of young people... more»
In ten thousand years, just supposing that any of our descendants are still around, Beethoven will be there, communicating with human beings like no one else... more»
If our brains represent numbers only vaguely, how were we able to invent numbers in the first place? What about the tribe that can only count to five?... more»
Repression 2.0. Among the 300 million internet users in China, there are 50 million bloggers. The authorities will never control that. Oh, yeah?... more»
Globish is not about a 1500-word vocabulary, but about how Indians, Chinese, and Africans are making English into a liberating force. Robert McCrum explains... more»
Mark and Delia Owens were keen in their devotion to protecting elephants from poachers in Zambia. They indisputably did good work, but should poachers be shot?... more» ... video
Historians, please note. If ever there existed a scientific theory that is fundamentally historical, that explains change over time, it is Darwin’s evolution by natural selection... more»
You can’t reason with the absurd, as IKEA found when it tried to build a model business in Russia. Institutional corruption there is out of control... more»
With the coyness of someone revealing a bizarre sexual taste, my patients would say to me, “Doctor, I think I’m suffering from low self-esteem.” Hmmm, perhaps not... more»
People tend to want easily digestible wisdom from philosophers. Give ’em a break: next time you sit next to one on a plane, talk about the movie, not the meaning of life... more»
“How would my life have been different had I not spent the last three months reading War and Peace?” Kevin Hartnett asks an arresting question... more»
Theological censorship backed by death threats is now installed in Europe. Intellectuals have decided it’s wise to keep silent about it. What a scandal... more»
Physicist John Polkinghorne surprised many in 1979 by deciding to become an Anglican priest. Science and religion both remain important for him ... more»
Armond White spoke at the NY Film Critics Circle banquet in January. Stars like Meryl Streep, George Clooney, and Kathryn Bigelow were there. The response? Stony silence... more»
On cold Sakhalin Island, Anton Chekhov watched floggings and saw wardens embezzle food from helpless prisoners. The human depths.... more»
The Greatest Generation lived through the Depression. Then came the Boomers, obsessed with themselves. But what about those born in between, during the war?... more»
Consider the plight of clergy who have lost their faith. Give up the pulpit? Quit the congregation? For many clergy, these are tortured questions... more»
For Anthony Grayling, cures for human ills are obvious, if only people were not so blinded by superstition. He may have to say it one more time... more»
Britain has lost traditional religion, but it has gained, uh, environmentalism, spiritual relativism, multiculturalism, and other really cool stuff in its place... more»
Childhood play evolved along with high human intelligence. The smartest animals are the most playful... more» Baby moose at play ...amateur video
Barack Obama’s African-American persona is his own invention, rather than one based on grievance, anger, and protest. What a difference it makes... more»
Hitler kept Schopenhauers works in his knapsack through WWI, so he claimed. Too bad that he couldn’t actually spell the philosopher’s name... more»
Working for Henry Luce meant “selling out.” Journalists hated themselves, but they cashed his checks, ate his food on deadline nights, drank his booze... more»
Rules to govern our choices can debilitate us. They also can empower. Taking away choices can give a greater sense of control in life... more»
The financial crisis should lay to rest any belief in “rationalmarkets. The craziness in mortgage markets, securitization, and derivatives is mind-boggling... more»
Proof of the Poincaré Conjecture may or may not be worth a million dollars, but the aesthetic and epistemic value of such a proof is beyond price... more»
Why even bother with Charles Dickens, a vain actor-manager type who used pathetic victims as tear-jerking raw material for his novels? Why, indeed... more»
After Napoleon destroyed the Russian army at Austerlitz in 1805, it was only a matter of time before another showdown with the Tsar... more»
Dead PoetsSociety. The history of poetry is not just a chronicle of influence. It is a conversation between the living and the dead... more»
Richard Wagner created a world of drama, beauty, fascination, strong emotions and, yes, politics that can become the center of a lifetime’s interest... more»
Mohandas Gandhi had an unusual sex life. He spoke constantly of sex and gave detailed advice on how to remain chaste. But beyond that... more»
For Philo of Alexandria, heaven was an eternal philosophy seminar. For medieval rabbis it was a vast library where books jumped into your hands... more»
Perry Anderson may have tacitly changed or abandoned old political goals, but his tone of omniscience and trademark hauteur remain... more»
If an artist or writer, say, Charles Dickens or V.S. Naipaul, has a bad character, why does it matter to us? Why should it matter at all?... more»
The American fertility rate is 50% higher than Russia, Germany, or Japan, and much higher than China. This will make for enormous differences... more»
Simone de Beauvoir didn’t deny the basic biological and erotic differences between men and women. But she could never combine difference with equality... more»
R.G. Collingwood, the irascible but brilliant philosopher and historian, has needed a warm and forgiving biography. He has it at last... more»
Paris Syndrome affects about 20 tourists a year: the shock of seeing that Paris is not all accordions, flowers, cobbled streets... more»
Joseph Pulitzer went from cub reporter to newspaper magnate and being the boss from hell whose sound-proof yacht cut him off from the rest of humanity... more»
If academia was slow to take up the poetry of Dorothy Parker, that is the price of popularity. Today, even feminists have let her into the canon... more»
Where do we get this grotesque idea that men set the standard for all achievement and women succeed or fail in life in by trying to live up to it?... more»
The Dreyfus Affair was the first big test of a modern justice system. It asked, can we use a current crisis to bend the rule of law?... more»
Ours is a culture that extols honesty and self-revelation. These values are set against the mystery of glamour, which is cool, aloof... more»
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was nearly called Alices Hour in Elfland – by Edgar U.C. Westhill. And that’s not all... more»
Fowlers Modern English Usage, seen as a “schoolmasterly, quixotic” book, retains a firm hold on lovers of the language... more»
Doubts about Shakespeare as the author of those plays turns on both snobbery and the idea that, in a literal way, you are what you write... more»
America’s population is going to expand dramatically in coming decades, unlike its rapidly aging rivals. Good news, says Joel Kotkin... more»
Terry Castle is not bashful about her faults. Her willingness to laugh at them rather than defend them takes the breath away, really... more»
Golda Meir once said, à propos Israel’s existence: “To be or not to be is not a question of compromise. Either you be or you don’t be”... more»
To adore the novels of E.M. Forster is to count oneself among “the aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky”... more»
Fred Harveys restaurants offered more than just decent food in the American West in the 1880s. They also offered wives... more»
“The good mechanic knows how to take a car apart,” says Neil Simon. “I love to take the human mind apart and see how it works”... more»
The idea that religions of the world are just varied paths that lead us to the same wisdom is comforting, sentimental bilge... more»
Swashbuckling historical novels have long pleased the public and been derided by critics. Time perhaps for a serious second look at the genre.... more»
Can you multitask? Of course you can – as many as two tasks at the same time! So can everybody else, the latest research shows... more»
John Adams’s library had more than 3,000 books – Thucydides, Plutarch, Cicero. Jefferson’s collection was massive. Presidents have been big readers... more»
Kindle, iPad, whatever. No matter where people buy books, they will regard something you can’t hold as worth less than something you can... more»
Goldman Sachs is everywhere: a vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money... more»
The next empire. Across Africa, tracks are being laid, highways built, ports dredged. China, with its insatiable appetite for commodities... more»
Fakelaki and rousfeti: two little words that together explain how Greece managed to tax so little and yet spend so much... more»
Antony Flew, philosopher who changed his mind on the existence of God, is dead at age 87... NYT ... Guardian ... Telegraph ... London Times ... Christianity Today ... Wash Post ... Christian Post
Does a “hot handbasketball player who has just sunk six free throws in a row stand a better chance of sinking the seventh? Is that hand really hot?... more»
The Chinese Communist Party is bleeding to death financially and politically and probably won’t last much longer. Gordon Chang explains why... more»
The air-crash that decapitated Polands state elite may owe something to reckless behavior, official negligence, and flaws of modern democracy itself... more»
The English breakfast: fat bangers, eggs oozing yolk, sizzling rashers, tea, double buttered toast. People feel good just thinking about it. Well, some people... more»
The Jews of Europe had behaved badly, Raul Hilberg felt. Instead of fighting the Nazis, they had surrendered to them... more»
Curious George ate bananas, had fun, and made a lot of mischief, but never actually saved the day, until 1939... more»
Looking back over his life from St. Helena, it wasn’t the failed invasion of Russia that loomed large in Napoleon’s mind, but rather the Siege of Cádiz... more»
Plagued by reports of dodgy data, sloppy work, and exaggeration, climate science is in crisis. And what if world temps rose by two degrees or more? Der Spiegel asks... more»
Whats with Germany? Used to be that when the tab came, the Germans would pay for everybody’s drinks, not to mention their retirement... more»
Emotions such as empathy and disgust may be at the root of morality, but people do change their moral views, with emotions falling in line... more»
Tired of grading all those student papers? Outsource to Bangalore! At least India has enough literate citizens left to do the job... more» [faulty link repaired]
White Canadians are deeply racist people. As Jonathan Kay found out, to deny this is itself an act of racism. The key is that they learn to confess... more»
Rwandas U.N. ambassador at the start of the 1994 genocide vanished in the U.S. It now turns out he lives in Alabama... more»
Human evolution can help explain what goes on in fiction. At the same time, fiction can tell us about thought processes built by evolution itself... more»
Religion can give enchantment to the lives of believers, pushing birthrates over those of secular couples. It follows that in the next fifty years... more»
Edith Grossman wants readers to savor the humor, melancholy, and intellectual and aesthetic complexity of Don Quixote, not to treat it as an academic puzzle... more»
Long before Kinsey, an obscure Stanford professor polled Victorian-era women on their views of sex, but kept secret the startling results... more»
Was it Bacon? The Earl of Oxford? Now Marlowe’s star is again on the rise. In fact, each candidate keeps coming back every 75 years or so... more»
When Mike Penner decided to change his sex, he became a symbol of courage for the transgender community. Then it all went wrong... more»
There was never an artist as modern as Francisco Goya: thinker, painter, and sell-it yourself printmaker long before punk rockers took up the act... more»
“Whether Mr. Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance. He chose it.” But whatever happened to Fountain?... more»
Jamie Olivers mission is to bring healthy food to fat, slothful Americans, at taxpayer expense, of course. Good luck, Jamie... more»
The Original of Laura is almost the last new Nabokov fiction we will see. But there are many more pages of Nabokov in full flow, not dammed up by death... more»
Super-sizing the Last Supper. Portions for Jesus and the Disciples have risen over the last thousand years... more»
Travel writing in the age of mass tourism. A lot of it is creative hanging-out. It even tends to look pretty pointless... more»
A.J. Ayer was a philosopher of renown and a steadfast atheist. In the end, his closest friend was Father Frederick Coplestone... more»
Fryderyck Chopin was stuck in the fog of London: “One day longer here and I won’t just die – I’ll go mad”... more»
What’s next at the science museum? A display of Star Trek sets? IMAX travel films? Climate scare stories? Any serious science?... more»
George W. Bush left office bruised not only by his many critics, but by conservative intellectuals who had once supported him. Will Barack Obama suffer a parallel fate?... more»
So we now blame Srebrenica on gay Dutch soldiers. Pansies! But hang on, says Toby Young. We’ve had fine military leaders who were as queer as a three-speed walking stick... more»
Tony Judt was asking for trouble, taking that grad student out for dinner. He’d read his Foucault and knew the rules. What made him think he’d get away with it?... more»
Toppling dictatorships and preventing mass murder is important. But the ways leaders treat their people is not the only problem in international affairs... more»
Sandra Bullock is Best Actress. But really, do we need a best actress Oscar? Isn’t the whole idea sexist? Denis Dutton says, “Hell, no”... more»
Robinson Crusoe was disinherited by his dad, who thought he was dead. Today, dad would check Facebook. And if Odysseus had access to GPS... more»
Avatar exceeds the normal bounds of its art in an attempt to reach for the better, higher, newer – in fact, it tries to validate the director as kind of superhero... more»
Graduate school in the humanities may not be a sure ticket to a career, says James Mulholland, but it is neither a “trap” nor a “lie”... more»
“Beethoven infuses the universe with the power of his spirit,” said Chopin. “I decided my universe would be the soul and heart of man”... more»
You like pancakes and sausages? Then you are going to love Jimmy Deans Pancakes & Sausage on a stick. Accept no substitutes... more»
Classical music has become too solemn. Alex Ross wants concert halls to be unpredictable places, in thrall to the wildly diverse personalities of composers and performers alike... more»
Evolution lets us see comics, that most mass of the mass arts, in a panoramic human context but also in extreme close-up. Brian Boyd explains... more»
The Germans wanted a unified Europe, but they didn’t figure on paying their neighbors’ bills till the end of time... more» ... more» ... The Euro is finished.
From pole-dancing to baking cupcakes, modern woman now thinks she can do it all. Charlotte Raven looks back with shame at the moment when her generation turned its back on feminism... more»
The BBC is right. Libyas airport isultra modern,” if by that you mean Egyptian chewing gum, cheap watches celebrating Qaddafi, and ’zines with Hugo Chavez on their covers... more»
Thank you for not expressing yourself. We do not have reader comments at Arts & Letters Daily. To see why, consider a few remarks from Theodore Dalrymple... more»
Isn’t it time that the Ten Commandments had a rewrite? Christopher Hitchens thinks so, and he fancies that he is up to the job... more»
Peer-reviewed science, touchstone of truth in empirical research. Don’t ask who the peers are, or how the review was conducted. Just believe... more»
Culture has become a force in human evolution, one that even accelerates evolution, as people adapt to pressures of their own creation... more»
The Iranian film industry has a long tradition of high-quality dubbings, Brian T. Edwards explains. Look at what they’ve done in multiple versions to Shrek... more»
The Exile was perhaps the most crass and abusive publication in Russia, and it is surprising it lasted so long. But it was a threat to Vladimir Putin... more»
Should some kinds of music, especially pop, be positively discouraged, others encouraged? Standing with Plato, Roger Scruton answers a resounding yes... more»
Britain has some creepy ways of policing its citizens. But turning classical music into a weapon, with Mozart a tool of state repression, marks a new low... more»
Communism’s end wasn’t Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history.” André Glucksmann argues that to leave communism was to enter history... more»
Anne Hutchinson died in 1643, but her long argument with Puritanism once made her the most hated woman in America. She is still worth remembering... more»
Who are the best poets writing today? In truth, it is very hard for anyone to know. While there might be a Blake and a Dickinson buried in the overgrowth, we may never know... more»
Public-sector unions and their political allies are looting the public treasury with gold-plated pensions, placing at risk the finances of state and local governments... more»
In hospitals, beauty parlors, and construction sites, from rich countries to poor, the money stays in the family. John Gravois on remittance economies... more»
Amnesty International was built on noble ideals of freedom of thought, but it has lost its way. It should not be defending just any prisoner, jailed for any crime... more»
Long before Hollywood took up the cause Tibet was viewed as a place of spiritual purity, perfect blue skies, prayer flags, and deeply happy people. Reality is less clear... more»
Boredom is often quite exquisite. To be sure, it can be a sad affair, and it’s related to emptiness, but in a perfectly enjoyable way... more»
Sending fathers into military combat has been a tragedy for as long as war has existed. Sending mothers along with them makes life unimaginably worse... more»
A dying language. If it belongs to a tribe in the Amazon Basin or an Aboriginal group in the Outback, we worry. But how is Yiddish doing?... more»
Masters of American literature. With the death of J.D. Salinger, a remarkable, unrivalled generation era in Ameican fiction came to its end... more»
The Olympics and other international sporting competitions, rather than creating amity, breed conflict and bring out the worst in people... more»
Violet Gibson, a lady with both gumption and a pistol, shot Benito Mussolini in 1926. Nicking his nose was not quite enough to change the course of history... more»
Americans made a “refined and intelligent egotism,” said Alexis de Tocqueville, into “the pivot” on which the machine of democracy turns... more»
Americans export their diagnoses and cures for mental illness across the globe. But why should the rest of the world be crazy like them?... more»
Katie dreamed of college as a place where she’d learn why she so loved the beauties of Rembrandt. Then she took art history... more»
It is possible to feel intense nostalgia for a past that you would despise, if you could have it back. Consider postwar Britain... more»
The more we learn about addictions, the more they are regarded as diseases, with big implications for freedom and responsibility... more»
Pearl Buck played as a child in a Chinese town where wild dogs foraged for girl babies routinely exposed to die on waste land... more»
Lewis Carroll is a many-faced persona in a drama that was played and scripted by an Oxford don of authentic genius... more»
Mario Savio was a revolutionary, logician, poet, and libertarian – a lightning rod who could not quite conduct the energy he’d attracted... more»
If you want to pick holes in evolution, you need to grasp what Darwinian science tries to achieve. A new book on Darwin fails to do this... more» ... further dispute
Simple-minded moral posturing on Darfur by celebrities and rights activitsts has made the conflict even worse... more»
Given the choice between a middling novel and a middling work of nonfiction, the latter will at least offer a few new facts... more»
Joan Houlihan’s new poems are playful in coinage and raw in imagery, but ultimately graceful and pleasing in rhythm... more»
It’s possible to make the case that the most important thing about Bob Dylan is his Jewishness. But it’s a stretch... more»
The half-mad Nina Simone was like an exotic queen of some secret ritual. She also got that diploma from the Curtis Institute, though a little late... more»
Putting down the Mau Mau Rebellion was yet another instance of colonial brutality by Britain, says Daniel Goldhagen. Is this claim true?... more»
Heidegger was undoubtedly a genius. You can tell he was a genius because his philosophy is so hard to grasp... more»
The history of the Baader-Meinhof Gang is a story of violence, murder, and even, in the end, suicide made to look like murder... more»
And God Created Football. For some fans, there are intimations of the divine in a well-executed screen pass... more»
If John Quincy Adams was the brightest president, he was also the least likable. But his wife, Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams... more»
The Cold War standoff between the West and the Soviets seemed at the time unlikely to collapse into total war. But the Cold War was more dangerous... more»
Rainbow trout: lovely dappled denizen of deep lake and rushing river, prize of pork-barrel politics, killer of native fish... more»
An evolutionary adaptation that might have promised survival in the Pleistocene is more likely nowadays to produce Type 2 diabetes... more»
Tolkien regretted not being part Jewish: “I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.” Would Lord of the Rings exist were he Jewish?... more»
Life with Elizabeth and John Edwards was a snake pit. Now one of the snakes gives us his memoir. You may want to shower after reading the book... more»
E.D. Hirsch is an antidote to our culture wars, our feel-goodism. He reminds us of America’s great potential: that’s why he is such a great American... more»
If religion is a Darwinian adaptation, it must be for groups, not individuals. Those who practiced religion prevailed over those who did not... more»
Old English was an elegant tongue, yet one that mirrored the brutality of its times. The Dictionary of Old English is tying it all together... more»
From a little Simone Weil wannabe to one of the great ironists of academe, Terry Castle’s story is told with wit and vitality... more»
Is music “cheesecake for the mind,” as Steven Pinker put it? Well, if you can show that Homo sapiens has a deep emotional need for cheesecake... more»
We all know how the Odyssey ends. But that ending is not the only one possible. And what might have happened after the final scene?... more»
Forcing diversity training on workers may have little effect on prejudice, but does tend to leave people more resentful... more»
Indians love Facebook. They get to tell everyone what they are doing – and to stick their noses into other people’s business... more»
The Arab world today: stagnation and turmoil prevail, as colossal wealth and hyper­modern cities collide with mass illiteracy and rage-filled imams... more»
At Arts & Letters Daily we never endorse anything except our own T-shirts and coffee mugs. We’re not up for an $11,000 FTC fine. But how about you?... more»
Those were the days. There is a good dose of nostalgia in Terry Eagleton’s memoir of socialism in the 1970s... more»
The deadly Chechnya insurgency, which the Kremlin says is all but defeated, is spilling out from the mountains that have sheltered rebels for centuries... more»
How shameful for the world’s rich to downplay their own environmental impact because today’s poor people might one day get just as rich... more»
Charles Darwin’s natural selection is one of the grandest ideas of any age. Herbert Spencer’s use of Darwin is quite another story... more»
Not your normal workplace. In winter, the Arctic is chaotic, manifold, and cruel in how it metes out death. Which it does, often... more»
In 1895, Wall Street was making bets as to when the U.S. Treasury would run out of gold and default on its debts. Then J.P. Morgan stepped in... more»
Starbucks is 39 years old now, and like a lot people who reach that age, it’s going through a bit of an identity crisis... more»
You can’t explain natural selection by appeals to domestication. There is no mind in Darwins nature to conduct a breeding program. Oh, yeah?... more»
The successes of Timothy Geithner and his boss are clouded by job losses and anger at Wall Street. Geithner remains unrepentant... more»
The 13-note Bohlen-Pierce musical scale offers composers a strange world where melodic lines can have new expressive abilities... more»
Ego and humility, talent and chance, hysteria and silent feeling: these polarities are magnified in our actors... more»
Whether he’s right or wrong, the debate Alan Sokal started matters. Philosophers should pay attention to him... more»
Disasters have no logic, but the recovery that follows a disaster is deeply political. Chile has democracy. Chile will survive... more»
Wal-Mart or Whole Foods? Where would you buy your groceries? Corby Kummer set out to search for a serious answer to the question... more»
Cesar Chavez became in death both a Mexican saint and an American hero. He was in life, of course, a conspicuous failure... more»
Caffeine addicts can get their fill with the Arts & Letters Daily coffee mug. Also tested with herbal teas. Works fine... Advert»
New facts, especially when complex, and where they replace beliefs already in your mind, may take a while to soak in... more»
“It sucks,” says an Internet movie critic, using the most common aesthetic reaction on the Web. Goodbye to smart criticism... more»
Saddam Husseins list of friends, aides, and accomplices was rigid enough to make possible the use of network theory to capture him... more»
The crash of Air France flight 447 from Rio to Paris last year is one of the most mysterious disasters in aviation history. A picture now emerges... more»
The general problem with America is not poverty, it is inequality, which is much worse since the 1970s. We can shift back, argues Kate Pickett... more»
The wars are long over, but the German problem is back. This time Germany isn’t flexing its muscles: it’s feeling a sense of national atrophy... more»
“Never open a book with weather.” Good advice on writing fiction from one of the most successful writers of our age. And there’s more... part 1 ... part 2
“The thing about being autistic is that you gradually get less and less autistic,” says Temple Grandin. “It’s like being in a play; I’m always in a play”... more»
Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Fryderyk Chopin, a composer whose mysterious music is not as merely pretty as it sounds... more»
The U.S. government poisoned its own citizens during Prohibition. All in the name of a war on moral decay, of course... more»
We dug ourselves out of the snow, had a nice lie-down, and we’re tweeting again! Get Arts & Letters Daily’s Twitter feed.
Was the Hiroshima bomb a dud? It seems not, despite sensational claims made in a new book on the first atomic attack... more»
The intractable Afghanistan problem: hundreds of Taliban immersed in local populations, indistinguishable from them and ready and willing to fight... more»
Population density of Mumbai slums: one million people per square mile. What can slum and squatter life tell us about the future of the planet?... more»
Advocacy research that extends some perceived threat to absurd proportions is degrading the name of science. Consider third-hand smoke... more»
J.K. Galbraith quite easily saw the moral defects of businessmen – megalomania, greed, hypocrisy, and special pleading – but did not see the same in government bureaucrats... more»
Whats wrong with the boomers, a British take. “We once thought our children would grow up into a far better world than the one in which we reached adulthood. They didn’t”... more»
It is a philosophical education to keep chickens, live with them, and treat them with courtesy. All chickens are not born equal, but they deserve equal respect... more»
Is it desirable for society to designate some group as “bioethicists” with expertise in resolving the most difficult moral questions we face? How are these people experts?... more»
Tens of thousands of years of human mating norms are evaporating as Cro-Magnon males drag women into their caves, and the women love every minute of it... more»
Alice Waterss Chez Panisse is much more than a restaurant. It is a standard-bearer for correct moral values, and now it will dictate our kids’ education. Do we really want this?... more»
Predictions of Americas decline relative to the might of Asia are vastly overstated. Asia lags far behind the U.S. in military might, political influence, and even economic stability... more»
Constantly updating yourfriends” on Facebook, like joining a room full of chattering people, is no substitute for an actual conversation... more»
Robert Lipsyte is a Super Bowl ad fan. He’d rather go to the bathroom during a third-down play than miss a commercial. And he is always ready to share his all-time favorites... more»
Let the West bring a WTO free-trade case against China for Web censorship. As Marx said, trade is the “heavy artillery” that “batters down all Chinese walls.” Including computer firewalls... more»
“England is a cesspit,” says Wole Soyinka. “It is the breeding ground of fundamentalist Muslims. Its social logic is to allow all religions to preach openly. But this is illogic”... more»
Obedience to authority is not just a way for rulers to keep order in China, but is an essential part of being Chinese. Enter Google... more»
The state’s grasping hand even reaches into the pockets of generations unborn, says Peter Sloterdijk. Call it, “The pillage of the future by the present”... more»
What happened to the place of work in fiction? In the modern novel, a job tends to be as much a marginal detail of a character’s life as her hair color... more»
Despite some European political figures trying to rekindle old fires, Europe will survive its changing ethnic and religious composition, as it has before. John Bowen explains... more»
Stephen Toulmin and John E. Smith were both philosophers in the grand sense that still draws young people around the world to the subject. Till logic-choppers drive them away... more»
Academic reputations are often made by pygmies who, while standing on the shoulders of giants, try to cut heroic figures down to size. Look what they are doing to Hannah Arendt... more»
“The Trailhead Queen was dead,” writes E.O. Wilson. “No fever, no spasms, no farewells. She simply sat on the floor of the royal chamber and died”... more»
Literary magazines were once launching pads for great writers and big ideas. Is it time to write them off? VQR editor Ted Genoways wonders... more»
Defending entitlements and public-sector privileges at any cost will condemn the state to collapse under its own weight. We need to ask what the state must do and what it should leave alone... more»
A sad, frigid day in deep winter. Perfect for some literary gloom. The pain, grief, desolation, and ashes of Cormac McCarthy will do nicely... more»
It’s hard to think of an American movie before the 1960s that concerned itself with food, says Paula Marantz Cohen. But look at what’s happened since then... more»
Would you enter a collapsed supermarket to take food if your kids were starving? Then you are a looter too! Rebecca Solnit on the media and the Haiti disaster... more»
Any European intellectual can easily tell you: Europe, not America, offers the world the best model of social and economic life. But, as Clive Crook explains, the case is not so certain... more»
Now that President Obama has made his first tweet, he ought to study Cicero. Twitter may be absurd; but it can also hasten the inner ear to the voices and glories of the past... more»
“All the uses of nature admit of being summed in one, which yields the activity of man an infinite scope.” Yep. Another pointless koan from Ralph Waldo Emerson... more»
Indias heterodox religions and their traditions remain stronger than the idea of a unified nation-state. They have survived a long and violent history... more»
With Eric Rohmer, as with Mozart, Austen, James, and Proust, art was not just about life. It was about discovery and design and reasoning with chaos... more»
There are sixteen different government units that run intelligence for the U.S. With fragmentation like that you’d have to be psychic to “connect the dots”... more»
Writing is learned by imitation,” says William Zinsser. Bach needed a model, Picasso needed a model, and when it comes to writing, we all need models... more»
Vincent Van Gogh was not merely the innocent, tortured soul of myth, but to the end also a lucid, rational, diligent, and productive artist... more»
Happy New Fear! From the Mayans to swine flu to the deadly threat of Y2K to global warming, we are always near to the end of the world... more» ... readers respond
Instead of religious sins plaguing our conscience, we now have sins of leaving water running, lights on, not recycling, or using plastic grocery bags. Its our green religion... more»
Are you an intellectual? Then please be warned: Thomas Sowell’s new book will not raise your self-esteem. Might not damage it much, either... more»
The Dreyfus Affair was a culmination of vast and largely destructive changes that had convulsed the French state through the whole of the 19th century... more»
Heinrich von Kleist, an author for whom too much consciousness was a disease, only wrote eight stories. They are glories of world literature... more»
Why have 277,500 high-risk, expensive flights through Soviet airspace to supply West Berlin so faded in memory? Richard Reeves wondered... more»
Science as a model for democracy: citizens are not coerced toward a specified goal, but experiment without end... more»
The knife and the gun can become tools for murder in an irrational instant. But poison needs quiet calculation... more»
Posterity hasn’t had much trouble knowing what to do with Emily Dickinson: revere her as a poet and sentimentalize her life... more»
History once had a public role in Britain. Today, British historians find their warmest reception abroad, not least in the U.S., where history still matters... more»
Material advance remains vital to human welfare, despite huge gains of the past two centuries. Only the rich and thoughtless can afford to think otherwise... more»
The war must have seemed far away from Monticello in 1779 when Thomas Jefferson joined a Hessian prisoner in a violin duet, with Martha Jefferson on the pianoforte... more»
Orson Welles’s funeral was a tawdry and chaotic affair, reminding his daughter of dumping Mozart’s body into a pauper’s grave... more»
Cesare Borgia: ruthless, power-hungry and peacock-vain. But he was also brilliant, charismatic, and educated in the classics, a true Renaissance man... more»
We all have experienced a sudden rush of emotion on hearing a particular piece of music; a thrill or chill, a feeling of being swept away by music... more»
Yalta: Stalin, Churchill, and FDR blithely pushing pet ideas or haggling over details that would affect millions of people for generations to come... more»
North Korea has created a sort of new species. Starving, ignorant, stunted dwarves, living in the dark, brainwashed into the hatred... more»
America could take Ayn Rand out of Russia, but not Russia out of Ayn Rand. Her work belongs to the history of Russian, not American, literature... more» ... They love her, they hate her
Hergé’s characters never age. Tintin is outside of time. Children also have a sense of existing outside of adult time and can identify with this... more»
The Bauhaus in its later years became a kind of religion, with apostasy and heretics that had to be excommunicated by those who still held the true light... more»
From Napoleon’s defeat to the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Tom Standage argues, food has ways of defining the course of events... more»
Rebecca Goldstein does not want to shake your faith in God or confirm it, but she’ll make you a believer in the power of fiction... more»
Stephen Fry has found something nice to say about nearly every American state he has visited. Except New Jersey... more»
Love: once ferocious and passionate, it has today been defused and made tepid – streamlined, safety-checked, and emptied of spiritual consequence... more»
Disney’s Three Little Pigs is Aristotelian from start to finish: plot, necessity, fear, revenge, resolution, catharsis. Now a new version challenges these values... more»
Jacques Derrida was a contrarian and a skeptic who had a weakness for prophetic tones, for apocalyptic drama... more»
Despite tragedies of war and terrorism in our age, the world has seen huge progress in living standards and personal freedom for most of the human race... more»
The number of different possible chess games is 10120, says Garry Kasparov. Look eight moves ahead and you confront as many games as stars in the galaxy... more»
With morality, we build a castle in the air and then live in it. It has no objective foundation, but it is a real castle. You can say the same of money... more»
From Freud to Marxism to ESP to a whole series of women, when in the grip of a mania, Arthur Koestler was incapable of seeing anything else... more»
Irving Thalberg knew he was fated to an early death. This made him impatient with mediocrity and ambitious for success in his limited time... more»
Poetry hardly ever gets reviewed, which leaves readers to their own devices. It’s not so hard to be your own poetry critic. Lessons from Joan Houlihan... more»
Moral intelligence, an innate sense of right and wrong, allowed both dogs and early human societies to flourish and spread across the world... more»
New Left Review has turned fifty, but with no balloons or party games. The very idea of “celebration” smacks of consumerist pseudo-optimism... more»
Queen Victoria was a passionate and rather open-minded woman whose tastes in painting ran toward plenty of naked flesh... more»
Orest Ranum had worked for ten years on a history of early modern Europe. On the night of May 22, 1968, all his notes were burned by students of the SDS... more»
Civil asset forfeiture was going to be a tool for dealing with serious organized crime. As Radley Balko explains, it is now a source of outrageous injustice... more»
For 400 years the delivery of letters has been integral to British life. The history of the Royal Mail is in itself a social history of Britain... more»
Mixed asset ownership, basic property rights, and heavy state intervention. Is the Beijing consensus a path to economic success? Maybe not... more»
If we want a happy ending, at some point with Shakespeare we must draw a line and close our eyes to the injustice an ending may entail. Consider Shylock... more»
Forget about aid. People in the poorest countries like Haiti need new cities with different rules. And developed countries should be the ones that build them... more»
Lady Jane Grey, the “nine-day queen,” was virginal, sweet, and beheaded at the age of 16, a notorious victim of the Tudors, or so it is thought... more»
Humor is a far more complex process than primeval pleasures like sex or food, but just as much tied to the inner complexity of the brain... more»
Falling from an airplane. You just might live to tell the tale. Herewith a 120-mph, 35,000-ft, 3-minutes-to-impact survival guide... more»
Casanova made prodigious use of English frock coats, the “little preventive bag invented by the English to save the fair sex from anxiety”... more»
Should a room that Langston Hughes lived in for a couple of years be turned into a museum, a tourist destination? Will this save the neighborhood?... more»
Percussionists of the Tehran Symphony Orchestra can beat the bejesus out of their drums, to comic effect. But they too are victims, as much as the Iranians... more»
The human brain, for all its power, is quite suspicious of difficulty. Effective marketers, politicians, and sales people all know to keep it simple... more»
Is media multitasking driven by a desire for new information or a wish to avoid hard thinking? The easy option dressed up like something hard... more»
“When you say banker, a lot of people think Jewish.” So what if they do? What if people are just a little prejudiced about Jewish bankers?... more»
Howard Zinn, historian, shipyard worker, and author of A People’s History of the United States, is dead... NYT ... WP ... LAT ... Dissent ... Bob Herbert ... Ron Radosh ... Boston Globe ... Progressive ... Benjamin Kerstein ... Christopher Phelps ... Roger Kimball ... Independent
J. D. Salinger, reclusive author whose Catcher in the Rye caught the mood of a generation, is dead ... Charles McGrath ... AP ... Stephen Miller ... Elaine Woo ... London Times ... Bart Barnes ... FT ... Telegraph ... Mark Krupnick ... Richard Lacayo ... Tom Leonard ... Martin Levin ... Rick Moody ... Richard Lea ... Malcolm Jones ... Morgan Meis ... Chris Wilson ... Robert Fulford ... Ian Shapira ... Michael Ruse ... Christopher Reynolds ... David Usborne ... Joe Gross ... Stephen King ... John Walsh ... Henry Allen ... Mark Feeney ... Ron Rosenbaum (1997) ... John Timpane ... Alex Beam ... Verlyn Klinkenborg ... Tom McGlaughlin ... David Ulin ... his neighbors ... Mark Medley ... Stephen Metcalf and Slate staff ... John Wenke ... Jeff Simon ... Tom Leonard ... Andrea Sachs ... David Lodge ... Christopher Hitchens ... Lionel Shriver ... Barbara Kay ... Nathanial Rich ... The Onion ... Holden’s heirs ... Lillian Ross ... Adam Gopnik ... John Seabrook ... Dave Eggers ... new photos ... Mark Bauerlein et al. in NYT ... Adam Kirsch ... Colby Cosh ... A.M. Homes ... Martin Amis et al. ... Robert McCrum ... Julian Barnes et al. ... Joan Smith ... Adam Golub ... Virginia Heffernan ... Jonathan Yardley on “Salinger’s execrable prose and Caulfield’s jejune narcissism” (2004).
Philip K. Dick bounced in and out of love affairs and marriages, stints in rehab and drug overdoses, never losing his cool. Well, almost never... more»
Daily life of the jihadis: rants, the usual aggressive posturing, murderous threats, and dreams of paradise. Also, problems with frying eggs... more»
Louis Auchincloss, novelist who plumbed the world of Manhattan’s old-money elite, has died at the age of 92... NYT ... FT
Great teachers can’t be identified in any reliable, objective way. They have a gift: some mystical quality we revere but can’t replicate... more»
Bribery is a national disease in India, one that is widely viewed as incurable. Now a new idea is helping people to take a stand against it: the zero-rupee note... more»
As a juror, he was skeptical, as a citizen, he was angry. Sure, the guy had sold $10 worth of dope. But the police cant just fabricate evidence... more»
Emotions trump rules. This is why, when we speak of moral role models, we think of their hearts, not their brains. Frans de Waal explains... more»
After the main performance, crowds in 16th-century London playhouses were treated to a late-night B-feature of rude, lewd farce, known as the “jig”... more»
A miserable coda to a brilliant career. The witty, tough-minded Gore Vidal, once seen as today’s rival to Oscar Wilde, is now a graceless crackpot, beyond even Michael Moore or Oliver Stone... more»
In Indonesia, Islam arrived through trade rather than conquest, by Indian dhow rather than Arab charger. But this locally relaxed religion is losing ground to aggressive orthodoxy... more»
For Tony Judt, having Lou Gehrig’s disease is like being in prison for life, with your cell shrinking by six inches a week. “It’s going to crush me to death, but I don’t know exactly when”... more»
Formulaic book-beat stories: how Writer A struggled and made it big, how Writer B’s novel is marketed, or Writer C’s huge advance. Bob Thompson tries to avoid the formulas... more»
The demise of dueling, Bertrand Russell felt, had “made it difficult to be insulting without being ungentlemanly.” We need ways to be offensive without seeming to be ill-bred... more»
When Salman Rushdie met trouble, intellectuals of Europe rallied to his side. Now, with the attempt to murder a Danish cartoonist, they are gripped with fear... more»
Just-so stories: unscientific yarn-spinning, mere guessing? Or a part of imaginative hypothesis building in science? David Barash explores a question too-long ignored... more»
Richard should have been a child naturalist. After all, sun-browned Dawkins legs had for long been striding in khaki shorts through jungles of the Empire. But he loved books too much... more»
During the Cold War, when Pete Seeger coaxed classrooms full of kids to join him in folk songs, no one saw America’s “singing left” as much of a political threat... more»
Say you’re a world leader and you want your country’s economy to prosper. There is a simple solution available to you: start with free elections... more»
Raymond Chandler wrote that his detective Philip Marlowe has “as much social conscience as a horse. He has a personal conscience, which is an entirely different matter”... more»
Charles Darwin, “the man who made the modern world,” was conventional in his fibre, reticent and generous, one who insisted that his own mental abilities were only middling... more»
The Sidney Awards honor long-form magazine essays with narrative drive, depth, and a capacity to provoke. This year’s winners... part 1 ... part 2
Thomas Jefferson opposed ball games, but the wise Abe Lincoln had a baseball diamond built behind the White House and joined his sons in playing ball... more»
The case against New Years madness. Midnight revelry is sheer malarkey. Simon Winchester argues for a sober morning celebration... more»
Study the Christmas story carefully, advises Karen Armstrong, and you are left with the disturbing sense that the world’s future lies with the very people cast to its margins... more» ... more»
The Messiah is the voice of an earthly ecstasy that has no need of mysticism, but is available to all. Handels music makes you want to live. There is no greater gift an artist can offer... more»
Worrying about drink is as British as talking about the weather, but binge drinking is not quite as British as rain, not an entrenched tradition... more»
Science is so exciting, they say, cutting-edge and so much fun. But now it is time to come clean, says the New Scientist. In truth, science is boring... more»
The Taliban’s demonic attitude toward women is merely an extreme form of grotesque misogyny fostered through history by religion, says Francine Prose... more»
Learning styles,” they call it. Some students are visual learners, others auditory, or kinesthetic. The idea is, alas, much in doubt... more»
Promote a conspiracy theory, and your phones will be bugged, your office burgled (but not robbed), your hard drives fragment, and your emails vanish. Or so you’ll think... more»
Should the Swiss apologize for having vetoed minarets in their recent election? Maybe, but where should the apologies begin? Think for a moment about the Armenian genocide... more»
You’ve heard of the Shroud of Turin and splinters of the True Cross, but other bits and pieces of the Holy Family are ready for your veneration. Ten favorites... more»
If God were a gardener, what kind of garden would he cultivate? How, given the garden, might we tell the difference between his presence and his absence? Anthony Gottlieb wonders... more»
James Madison argued that chaplains in the armed forces were “inconsistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principles of religious freedom.” He’s still right... more»
From disappointment over Y2K to glee with 9/11 and climate chaos to a keen interest in the latest bomb in Kabul, people love their apocalyptic fantasies, says Toby Young... more»
Most of us are genetic dandelions: able to survive anywhere. Others are more like orchids: fragile and fickle, but capable of blooming if given hothouse care... more»
The history of the South is a dark little corner of the American past. Can light be thrown on it without seeming to defend slavery? Donald Livingston thinks so... more»
Japanese: an excruciatingly difficult language with subtleties few foreigners can ever master. It is being simplified by the web – even dumbed down... more»
The august tutelage of Emerson, Thoreau, and her father made Louisa May Alcott acutely conscious of unseen, spiritual realities. Still, she could play them for laughs... more»
Always with the complaining! Possibly the most noble and eloquent kvetch in the history of English poetry is Ben Jonson. Robert Pinsky explains... more»
For many people, the moral life is based in religion, or at least in wisdom given to us by religion. No, says Marc Hauser: the moral sense is evolved... more»
Kandinskys circles. Are they yeast cells budding, a haloed blue sun and candied satellites, or life itself escaping a careless primordial stew?... more»
The struggle for equality between the sexes keeps coming down to motherhood, over and over again. Kay Hymowitz on men, women, and evolution... more»
Art moves on, but essential qualities of decent critics do not change: knowledge, courage, and a way of finding aphorisms with good headline potential... more»
Christopher Alexander: an architectural theorist who has inspired counterculture DIY-ers, smart-growth advocates, computer programmers, and more... more»
“It is a truth universally acknowledged...” tells us something about Jane Austen’s temper and her times. Her world was one where there really was universal truth... more»
Jessica is a plucky lass who, with mum and dad’s blessings, is determined to sail solo around the world. Might it all end in tears? Roger Sandall looks at a little history... more» ... her blog
Andy Warhol’s 200 One Dollar Bills goes up in price by tens of millions, while 200 actual one dollars bills become more worthless. James Panero on mysteries of the art market... more»
For John Tierney, there is blame enough to spread around all sides in the debates over global warming. But the pilfered East Anglia emails still give us a lesson or two about science... more» ... more»
Martin Heidegger, a thinker many regard as the most important philosopher of the 20th century, was a bona fide, arm-saluting Nazi. How much should we care?... more»
The Renaissance imagination reached farther across the globe than the ships of Spain or Genoa. Consider Petrarch and Boccaccio as geographers... more»
Telling the taxi driver he was Cuban always elicited a warm reponse: “Ah, Cuba! Fidel Castro!” Taxi drivers of the world need to know about the Cuban Revolution, says José Prieto... more»
Thanks to Best in Show, dog shows now have to go forward in an age of dog-show ridicule. How fair is that? Jesse Smith wonders... more»
Little acts of social thuggery. The screaming kid on the airplane and the iPhone babbler in line at the bank exploit our patience and goodwill, says Amy Alkon... more»
Roland Emmerichs 2012 is so dumb you want to cheer, Die Cusack, Die! Amanda Peet and their kids, too. It’s the end of the world, so please meet death like everyone else... more»
The world has too many Malthusians, and what’s worse, they are multiplying like rabbits, becoming a burden to clear thinking about human population growth... more»
There are 36 arguments for the existence of God, each with some persuasive power. But every one of them has buried within it some kind of flaw... more»
Le Corbusier was the most important architect of the 20th century.” Yes: his concrete brutalism has wrecked many a city and town across the globe, as Theodore Dalrymple explains... more»
The fetishization of change is a symptom of a deep intellectual malaise in modern education theory, where truth, knowledge, and meaning have merely a provisional character... more»
When Jane Austen doesn’t like a character in one of her novels, she ceases to be the subtle, witty ironist everyone adores and turns into a vicious moral harridan... more»
The Mumbai attacks: sixty harrowing hours. Jason Motlagh’s minute-by-minute account shows us scenes of great heroism and horrifying cruelty... more»
Louis Armstrong, even as a little boy, “could easily see the ungodly treatment White Folks were handing the poor Jewish family I worked for”... more»
Journalism and philosophy: how is it that the two humanistic intellectual activities that most boldly proclaim devotion to truth are barely on speaking terms?... more»
The Arabian Nights, Brahma, Zoroaster, the Turkish Pasha: Mozarts operatic orientalism was part of a European tradition of tireless intellectual curiosity and scholarship... more»
The Prodigal Son, his father said, “was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” Along with Goldilock and Snow White, this is the first story Mary Gordon remembers... more»
It is oppressive for math teachers to “transfer” their knowledge to students. Instead, they must help students construct their own understanding of math and find their own math solutions... more»
Umberto Eco, himself on most people’s list of top world intellectuals, enjoys lists. “I like lists for the same reason other people like football or pedophilia. People have preferences”... more»
Isaiah Berlin was a sublime raconteur, “a trapeze artist, soaring through every imaginable subject, spinning, flipping, hanging by his heels”... more»
1989 was the biggest year in world history since 1945. It changed everything, says Timothy Garton Ash ... The Soviet Union, observes Josef Joffe, was the first empire ever to die in its bed ... A tyranny set in stone, writes Roger Kimball ... It was never a foregone conclusion, Anne Applebaum insists ... Berlin was the centerpiece of the Cold War, Fred Kaplan reminds us ... We still have duties to revolutionaries, says Christopher Hitchens ... Richard Cohen finds it hard not to give Reagan credit ... Never has so great a revolution been won so swiftly and peacefully, says Ross Douthat ... The end of the only world I ever knew, says Stefan Theil ... Gorbachev only wanted to the door an inch or two, writes George Jonas, but the wind caught it ... First U.S. envoy to united Germany was Robert Kimmit ... Communism took power away from the people, says Boris Johnson, but they took it back ... A Polish view from Adam Michnik ... Realists wrongly thought only war could defeat the Soviet Union, says James Carroll ... Communism had to die, says Rupert Cornwell ... The Wall showed Kennedy’s weakness, says Donald Kagan ... It was Reagan’s dovish side that did it, argues Peter Beinert ... the world changed, says Victor Sebestyen, on that wonderful night in Berlin ... I promised the Warsaw Pact countries not to intervene in their affairs, says Mikhail Gorbachev ... The world turns, but it should not forget, writes Conrad Black ... Communism was a dark comedy for Guy Sorman ... The will of the people, says James Baker, is the final arbiter ... Gorbachev’s reforms, like those of some Tsars, came too late, says Mitchell Cohen ... It’s good Gorbachev was weak, says Lech Walesa ... A grotesque tyranny, says Doug Bandow ... The GDR made citizens into prisoners, writes Henry Kissinger ... The Left wanted to pretend nothing had happened, writes John Vinocur ... For Robert Fulford, Communism was a great con game ... The Wall can still be felt, like a phantom limb, says Michael R. Meyer ... Reagan’s speech was crucial, argues James Mann ... Intellectual walls remain, says Roger Scruton ... One of history’s finest moments, says Matt Welch ... Punk Rock helped tear down the Wall, says Tim Mohr ... Where is Russia today? asks Jonathan Brent ... The spoils of victory did not go to the U.S., argues Andrew Rawnsley, so much as to Europe ... NYT Op-Ed editors asked nine poets to remember the Fall of the Wall.
American literary culture is insular? Oh, yeah? Are Nigerians all that taken by fiction coming out of Denmark? Do Latvians groove on Philippine poetry?... more»
A world governed on anti-Enlightenment principles would be infinitely worse than one governed by Voltaire and Diderot. Zeev Sternhell is certain of that... more»
“I remember staring into his kindly eyes, tartly thinking to myself that my cousin was shyer than a virgin under the veil.” The young Osama bin Laden... more»
Harold Pinter: cantankerous, combative, a rougher-up. Antonia Fraser: so genteel and discreet. But opposites can sometimes make marriages... more»
Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith: two strange Catholic kids, quite un-at-home in the world, treating each other with heroic tenderness and generosity... more»
Bioethics is such a hot field in medicine and philosophy that bioethicists are on call in hospitals the help decide vexed moral issues. Isn’t it all a little silly?... more»
George Orwell’s diaries attest to his deep dread of rats. Perhaps not the only thing he shares with characters in Nineteen Eighty-Four... more»
Is this Vladimir Nabokov’s “final great book”? No, says David Lodge. But it does contain funny, astonishing sentences only Nabokov could have written... more»
Teenage peasant girls in the Middle Ages did have occasional religious visions. Few went on, like Joan of Arc, to lead armies... more»
Was Joseph a drag queen with his “coat of many colors”? Did Ishmael molest Isaac? Maybe not, but the Bible is more risqué than many would prefer... more»
The lovely Rep. Helen Gahagan Douglas was the perfect Hollywood liberal of her day. She coined “Tricky Dick” and wished the U.S. to share atom secrets with Stalin... more»
It is hard to imagine the deprivations of life in North Korea: 23 million people in a police state of rusted train tracks, sporadic electricity, and chronic starvation... more»
Sylvia Townsend Warner was a woman of brainy intensity, as the characters of her skillful, surefooted, witty work can show... more»
Evolution may help explain copulation and even cooperation, but can it account for art and human creativity? Brian Boyd thinks it can... more»
School lunch programs are remarkable: they manage to promote obesity, poor nutrition, and hunger all at the same time... more»
Barbara Ehrenreich has a valid point: in a culture of pink ribbons and happy-talk, it may take a village atheist to remind us that we can choose not to believe... more»
Facebook, we rather easily forget, needs to build a profit with our “friendships.” Jaron Lanier, barefoot guru of the web, is on the case... more»
Michel de Montaigne hated the cruelty of religion: “It is putting a very high price on one’s conjectures to have someone roasted alive on their account”... more»
George Santayana’s writings about his adopted homeland, America, are still fresh, enlivened by sharp turns of phrase and pungent judgments... more»
Understanding postwar Britain requires an historian to comb through shopping lists, police blotters, diary entries, and minor newspaper pieces... more»
The young Harold Evans did not fight the social order. He was a Horatio Alger hero among journalists, an improver of himself and of the world around him... more»
We are a culture of hypocrites. We want our coffee, sustainable, fair-traded coffee, so we can feel good about it. Starbucks knows this... more»
The sex life of Grace Kelly is like the home life of the Incas: you can investigate it in depth and muse upon it at length, but never hope to understand it... more»
With wine, “as with women and horses, the real best is second best.” Wine lover Roger Scruton apparently means it, too... more»
Captain Sullenbergers landing in the Hudson River was a miraculous application of skill in a situation that offered the best possible luck... more»
Opera’s styles come and go, but its core of music, text, drama, and spectacle is still there. Opera is about pleasure and power... more»
Timothy Garton Ash’s technique lies in a mixture of reportage and judgment, circling and deepening, as the one reinforces the other... more»
“You know people have tried to put me off as being crazy.” Thelonious Monk was only too willing to use the notion to his advantage... more»
The Revolution of 1688 gave Britain a new “Dutch model,” with commerce replacing landed wealth as guarantor of economic success... more»
Louis Armstrong was, as Philip Larkin put it, “an artist of Flaubertian purity.” Beyond that, he was one of the nicest human beings ever to walk the earth... more»
When the economy was about making material things, economics looked like physics. Today it’s more about ideas, and economics looks like psychology... more»
For Stewart Brand, the Green dream must now work toward a hi-tech future, rather than remain mired in the muddy paradise of Woodstock... more»
There is an exhilaration and joy to secure direct observational proof of a scientific theory. The history of astronomy is full of such moments... more»
Only connect? E.M. Forster had trouble to connect with the poor, unless they were boys available for sex, or Italian peasants or Indians... more»
Kirillov’s suicide as Dostoevsky portrays it is as harrowing a scene as any in 19th-century fiction. It is a struggle to live – and to die... more»
As tattoos go mainstream, it becomes hard for criminals to signal their devotion to crime. They look more and more like ordinary citizens... more»
Authoritarian democracies deliver growth but suppress dissent. They are built on a new pact between middle classes and their governments... more»
European fairy tales: it is hard to believe that such shocking, gruesome stories were ever permitted in the hands of young children... more»
Jean-François Revel was long reviled in France as a political paranoid and closet fascist. Today, his ideas look better and better... more»
Barack Obamas mother, S. Ann Dunham, did solid anthropological research on village economics in Indonesia. Her work is at last coming into print... more»
Did the Trojan War really happen? If so, did it flare at the archeological site that some scholars call Troy? Skepticism is slowly giving way... more»
Stieg Larsson’s serial killers and torture fanciers are capitalists in league with hideous fascist bikers and meth runners. Not just crime, it’s politics... more»
English may well be one of the biggest, most imaginative and attractive languages on the planet, but people just wont leave it alone... more»
With his health failing at the end, it is no surprise to discover Vladimir Nabokov was losing his writerly powers. For son Dmitri, there is no such excuse... more»
“We oppose tyranny around the globe, but not to the extent of actually doing anything about it.” Michael Bérubé on the anti-war Left... more»
Facial expressions do not communicate so much as enjoin us to imagine what it feels like to make the expression. Music is empathic in a similar way... more»
Sofia Tolstoy was a woman of strength and spirit. She understood the high price she would pay to live next to one of the greatest writers in history... more»
“Omit needless words,” William Strunk’s advice in the 1918 edition of The Elements of Style, means less and less the more you think about it... more»
Van Gogh was fascinated by Japanese prints, loved nature, and was obsessed with portraiture, which he viewed as a crucial genre for modern artists... more»
What might it mean to hate the Roman Empire with all your heart? Think yourself into the murderous soul of Mithradates, and maybe you’ll understand... more»
Henry Fowler did not waffle: there are right ways and wrong ways to use words. A new edition of his classic guide takes us back to the original Fowlers... more»
For collaborators, life in Vichy Paris was sweet. Even for the likes of Sartre, Camus, and Cocteau it was hardly unlivable... more»
Dont be evil” makes a lovely motto for such an elephantine firm as Google. They want to be nice, but they can so easily squash anything in their way... more»
Charles II loved theater, music, women, hunting, tennis, and gambling – and he gambled for a more tolerant England... more»
Leonardos oeuvre was whittled down from some 90 paintings in the 19th century to the dozen or so accepted today. Plus that one in Kansas... more»
Umberto Eco is fascinated with lists, lists of lists, and the infinite regress of adding up and counting down anything and everything. Etcetera, etcetera... more»
When Rilke died of leukemia, he did not want to know the name of his disease. For him, all that was worth knowing was in his poems... more»
Engrossing, energetic, and compelling, Van Goghs letters dramatize individual genius while throwing light on how the creative mind works... more»
We live in the age of the memoir, a time of “more narcissism overall, less concern for privacy, a strong interest in victimhood, and a therapeutic culture”... more»
A writer lives monkishly, coddling a loss, dead wife, whatever. Violent accidents, maybe a man is beheaded, plus B-movie dialogue. It’s Paul Austers fiction... more»
Before Facebook, few of us ever asked others to be their friends, nor did we count the number of friends we had as a status indicator... more»
There are beautiful passages in Vladimir Nabokov’s The Original of Laura, but they are few and scattered. This is a major book – for specialists... more»
Loyalty to your workers, customer care, and giving back to the community made Baton Rouges favorite department store, created by Jews who fled the Nazis... more»
In 1807, a Broadwood square grand piano, no. 10651, was taken by canal from London north to Lancaster for a John Langshaw, organist. Therein lies a story... more»
Françoise dAubigné: born in a prison to a murderer, was a child beggar, then later on governess to Louis XIV’s children, and finally his mistress and wife... more»
“Earth is the cradle of mankind, but one does not stay in the cradle forever.” Space pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovskii had a vision... more»
Friedrich Nietzsche cultivated the alien form of Dionysus on the soil of his native Pietism. In truth, he never overcame his childhood religion... more»
He was a skeptic? Oh, spare us, puhleeze! Arthur Koestler was a man suckered by an endless line of political, intellectual, and paranormal con jobs... more»
Malcolm Gladwell’s little cherry-picked anecdotes, post-hoc sophistry, and false dichotomies do annoy. But when he stops playing social scientist... more»
In his gigantic world map of 1602, Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci created for the Emperor of China an argument for the greatness of both China and Italy... more»
Did our Neolithic ancestors start to grow crops so they could bake bread? Perhaps not: maybe the real point of agriculture was beer... more» ... more»
John Mackey thinks capitalism, along with human creativity, can make the best world we might hope for, with “no limit to where humanity will be in the 21st century”... more»
Compassion and benevolence, as Charles Darwin knew, are rooted in our evolved psychology, ready to be cultivated for the greater good... more»
In Moscow, stray dogs have recovered their genetic wolf roots. They have also learned how to board subways and where to step off. All by themselves... more»

Three young Swedes decided to create a line of jeans and have them sewn in North Korea. They got their jeans, and more... more»
The Unluckiest Country. Haiti has been wracked since its foundation by coups, dictators, and foreign meddling... more»
For Goldman Sachs execs, transparency is “motherhood and apple pie,” and they profess wanting to see it put into law. Sincerely, it seems... more»
Polaroid photography was ideal for intimate artistic visions. No other kinds of photos are quite so tactile in their appeal, so strangely fleshy in their surfaces... more»
Destroying the Taliban regime, and with it Al Qaeda’s core in Afghanistan, has left Osama bin Laden bleeding popularity across the Muslim world... more»
Carbon fiber and aluminum are so 2009. The latest in bicycles is the bamboo frame. It makes for a smooth, organic ride with less vibration... more»
Is America going to hell? Not so far as James Fallows is concerned: the country’s cycles of crisis and renewal are a source of its deep strength... more»
John Brockman’s Edge question for 2010 asks over a hundred intellectuals, “Is the Internet changing the way you think?”... more»
Pleistocene metrosexuals. New finds show that Neanderthals, preferring to look their best 50,000 years ago, were into make-up and body adornment ... more»
Newsweek calls Arts & Letters Daily “the go-to site for the world’s procrastinating intellectuals.” Procrastinate now with your very own ALDaily Coffee Mug
Newspaper articles are too long, encrusted with conventions that don’t add to your grasp of the news, argues Michael Kinsley... more»
Jack Kerouac’s estate went to his mom, instead of his third wife. When mom died, she gave it back to the wife, cutting out his kids. Was mom’s will a fake?... more»
Economists are not skinflints. They are just, uh, thrifty. You’ve got to love any guy who won’t sell his kids because they might be worth more later on... more»
An extinct race of humans found in Africa had big eyes, child-like faces, and a high IQ – genius ancestors... more» Maybe, but not everyone is buying it.
Grad school in humanities: it’s a rigged game. Jobs are not there, and when you, of course, fail to find one, your grad school will pretend you don’t exist... more»
Dubai schadenfreude. It’s one of the global recession’s smuggest memes. So many people now want to ridicule Dubai’s ambitions... more»
At the end of the day, or is it the end of the decade? Whatever. Ron Rosenbaum’s take-away point is that there are a whole lot of new clichés to deal with... more»
“I’m very fond of Turkish Germany,” says Christopher Caldwell, who is reminded of Chinese America. Much success, but a very low level of integration... more»
David Levine, caricaturist whose literate, witty portraits of writers and politicians enlivened the New York Review of Books for decades, is dead... Bruce Weber ... Peter Kaplan ... Michael Kimmelman ... Steve Ball ... David Ng ... Mike Luckovich ... David Margolick
The French Resistance continues to excite the imagination because of its sheer drama and mystery – embodied perfectly in the story of Jean Moulin... more»
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, who took natural foods from the crunchy fringe to the mainstream, is a vocal libertarian and admirer of Milton Friedman... more»
The Peter Principle appeals to the cynic in all of us. It is also quite possibly true, if academic studies can be trusted. It explains your boss... more»
Enid Blyton may not have viewed herself as writing for the British colonies, but authors born in them still cite her as their inspiration... more»
Albert Camus ought to be buried in the Panthéon, with other great minds of France. But it looks as if it is not going to happen... more»
Ignoring beauty: bad architecture presents us with the loud gestures of people who want to seize our attention but give nothing in return... more»
Videogames often present an emotional, solitary, caveman-like journey that pits players against monsters. Once in a while they are a little more social... more»
International relations are moving toward a state of entropy. Chaos abounds as the story of world politics unfolds like a plotless postmodern novel... more»
The new Large Hadron Collider exists in a near-magical realm, a $9 billion cathedral of science that is in any practical sense quite useless... more»