Atheism, Big Bills, George Plimpton, Evelyn Waugh, Wagner, Controlled Trials

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Julian Baggini On Atheism

Nigel Warburton | Five Books | 26th February 2016

Discussion of books about atheism. Baggini recommends Hume, Sartre, James Thrower, Daniel Dennett, Nick Spencer. "Overt atheism is a recent phenomenon: it didn’t emerge until late in the Middle Ages. We didn’t understand enough about the way the world worked to be able to make sense of it without assuming some kind of supernatural agency. Atheism only becomes robust with a high degree of scientific sophistication" (5,800 words)

Kill The Bill

Lawrence Summers & Peter Sands | Larry Summers | 25th February 2016

Abolishing high-denomination banknotes — the $100 bill in America, the €500 bill in Europe — would complicate life for criminals with minimal effect on legal commerce and everyday life. There are thirty $100 bills in circulation for every man, woman and child in America — and when did you last have need of one? The "vast majority" of $100 bills are tied up in activities "at a minimum problematic, and often criminal" (570 words)

The Best Bartender In Brooklyn

Tim Sultan | Literary Hub | 26th February 2016

George Plimpton you know about. Sunny Barzano was a boxer until he became an actor, and an actor until he became a bartender. "I don’t know the circumstances of your own childhood, George, but for us in Red Hook, boxing allowed us to travel to different neighborhoods, to meet people who weren’t like us. When I consider that experience now, what boxing really served to do is to give me my first taste of theater” (2,400 words)

The Art Of Fiction: Evelyn Waugh

Julian Jebb | Paris Review | 1st September 1963

Interview. "We met in the hall of the hotel at three in the afternoon. Mr. Waugh explained that the interview would take place in his room. We got into the lift ... 'I hope you won't mind if I go to bed', he said, going into the bathroom. From there he gave me a number of comments and directions. He reentered, wearing a pair of white pajamas and metal-rimmed spectacles. He took a cigar, lit it, and got into bed" (3,077 words)

The Original Wagner

Martin Filler | New York Review of Books | 25th February 2016

The post-war desire to strip Wagner of political resonance has made the Ring easy prey for "outlandish" modern stagings. Frank Castorf set the 2013 Bayreuth cycle in an American gas station and a Russian oil field. But as the Hitler era "recedes into history", the pendulum can swing back towards tradition — and not a moment too soon, artistically speaking. "Every last anachronistic dystopia has been exploited as a stand-in for Valhalla" (1,500 words)

The Problem With Evidence-Based Policies

Ricardo Hausmann | Project Syndicate | 25th February 2016

Randomized control trials work well for testing dugs: You give one group a drug, another group a placebo, and measure the effect of the drug as best you can. The model has spread to development economics: Take two villages, give one a water pump, and measure the difference. This is dangerous. Very few things in human life are simple or replicable. "Most social interventions have millions of design possibilities and outcomes" (1,020 words)

Video of the day: Birth Of A Book

What to expect: Documentary. The making of Suzanne St Albans’ Mango and Mimosa, for Slightly Foxed books, at Smith-Settle Printers in Leeds (1'55")

Thought for the day

It's only words — unless they're true
David Mamet

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