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Writing Worth Reading

Lunch With Russell Brand

He talks and writes nonsense about capitalism and politics. His book, Revolution, is a dud. But in person it scarcely matters. His presence is electrifying. Everyone he touches glows with pleasure. “The only person I can think of who comes close to Brand in terms of the effect he has on others is Bill Clinton; if the two were together, I suspect the comedian would make the former US president look gauche by comparison” (2,760 words)

Growing Old Disgracefully

Brain surgeon reviews Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, about death and medicine. “My juniors ring me at night about emergency cases. A decision is needed on whether to operate and possibly save the patient’s life – though if the patient survives he will be left profoundly disabled. If I tell them to operate I get back to sleep, but if I tell them to let the patient die I lie awake for a long time. It is so much easier to treat than not to treat” (2,100 words)

One Year Later: Gravity

Alfonso Cuarón’s space drama consolidates its reputation as the best science-fiction film since 2001. “When chaos and frenetic editing have become blockbusters’ stock-in-trade, Gravity stands alone as a tribute to the power of coherent, fluid images.” The computer-generated special effects may age; “Movies that were considered high-tech in the 1950s sometimes look laughable today”. But that certainly hasn’t happened yet (2,660 words)

I Don’t Know. What Do You Think?

Google can make us feel omniscient. But it’s the feeling of not knowing which inspires us to learn. Young children ask tens of thousands of questions as they build up their knowledge of the world. Great works of art and great scientific breakthroughs are voyages into the unknown. The job of machines is to give us answers, and they do it almost too well — but our job as humans is to keep finding new questions (1,830 words)

A Message To The 21st Century

The great philosopher and historian of ideas warns against idealism. Compromise is better. “The search for a single, overarching ideal invariably leads to coercion. And then to destruction. Eggs are broken, but the omelette is not in sight, there is only an infinite number of eggs, human lives, ready for the breaking. And in the end the passionate idealists forget the omelette, and just go on breaking eggs” (1,500 words)

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