Quote of the day

“The trouble with lying is that its efficiency depends upon a clear notion of the truth ”
— Hannah Arendt

Richard Dawkins Interviews Christopher Hitchens

Hitchens’s final interview, newly available online. He died as it was published in 2011. Much discussion of religion. Hitchens on Judaism: “I go to Passover every year. Sometimes I have a seder because I want my child to know that she does come very distantly from another tradition. The Passover seder is also the Socratic forum. It’s dialectical. It’s accompanied by wine. It’s got the bones of quite a good discussion in it” (5,500 words)

I Am Not A Story

Life is not a story, and not everybody experiences life as a story. Indeed, it is hard to say whether those who claim to experience life as a story actually do so, or whether they are surrendering to a clumsy metaphor. It is equally possible to experience life as something that begins again every day, every hour, every second; and the past as remembered fragments which are individually useful, but with no collective significance (3,275 words)

Pachyderm Politics

Anthropologist studies social hierarchy among African elephants and discovers a Mafia-like ritual of obeisance when allocating the scarcest resource, water: “Greg, full of confidence and top of the hierarchy, would take his position at the head of the water trough. The other bulls would approach, placing their trunks in his mouth in greeting. Having paid their respects, the lower-ranking males could relax and drink their fill” (1,000 words)

The Franzen Of It All

“Probably no one alive is a better novelist than Jonathan Franzen, and this is frustrating because his novels are awful, excellent but awful, books you read quickly and remember ponderously, books of exhaustive craft and yet a weird, spiraling cluelessness about the data they exhaustively collate. They feel like real life irritably recreated from a spreadsheet, by someone who is a genius at reading spreadsheets” (2,300 words)

Lines In The Sand

China’s programme of building military bases on rocks and reefs in the South China Sea is “old-fashioned power politics of the most raw and dangerous kind”. It is driven not by territorial claims, nor by resource extraction, but by the desire to humiliate America. The bases are a public challenge: Either America forces China to back down — or America itself backs down, and lose the confidence of its Asian allies (Metered paywall) (5,500 words)

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