Best of the Moment
Steven Shapin | New Yorker | 15th October 2013
Review of Permanent Present Tense by Suzanne Corkin. Henry Molaison became "the single most important patient ever studied in neuropsychology" after a surgeon tried to cure his epilepsy with a drastic lobotomy. The epilepsy vanished, but so did Molaison's capacity to form memories. "Molaison gave scientists a way to map cognitive functions onto brain structure. It became possible to subdivide memory into different types"
Anne Korin & Gal Luft | Foreign Affairs | 15th October 2013
America learned the wrong lessons from the OPEC embargo and oil shock of 1973. The "shock" was due mainly to America's own policy response of regulating fuel prices and imposing rationing. Nor is America dependent on Middle Eastern oil: only 9% of supply comes from the region today; the proportion has never been above 15%. "What Americans import from the Persian Gulf is not oil but its price"
Ben Yagoda | Lingua Franca | 16th October 2013
Review of American Pastimes: The Very Best of Red Smith, edited by Daniel Okrent. Smith was one of the great sports writers of the golden age — up with Grantland Rice, Westbrook Pegler, Ring Lardner. Admired by Hemingway. A writing voice like that of Damon Runyon, with a "sidelong, raised-eyebrow gaze". Sample quote, about St Louis Cardinals player-manager Frankie Frisch: “You could have planted petunias in the loam on his face”
David Thomas | Telegraph | 15th October 2013
"My father went to Eton. I went to Eton. And my son goes to Bishop Luffa Church of England comprehensive". Reflections on the downward drift of the British upper-middle-classes, priced out of their houses and schools by bankers and foreigners. A London house that cost £8,000 in 1964 would cost £2-3m now. Fees at Eton have risen 40-fold since 1972. This could easily have been an infuriating piece; as done, it's rather poignant (Metered paywall)
Ross Andersen | Aeon | 15th October 2013
A visit to Star Axis, a monumental work of land art in the New Mexico desert, 40 years in the making, still not finished, already awe-inspiring. Sculptor Charles Ross has dug an artificial canyon crowned with a stone cap through which rises a long staircase aligned with the earth's axis and pointing towards the North Star. It is a new Great Pyramid, a work of "celestial geometry". Look up, and "tremble before the sky"
Mike Power | Medium | 8th October 2013
Why did the FBI take so long to shut down Silk Road, the drug-dealing web-site? Because the Tor software used by Silk Road — and developed by the US Navy — makes users very hard to identify, unless they make mistakes, as Silk Road's founder eventually did. The risky part was delivery: "One dealer would deliver you an empty box or envelope for a small charge, just to get the mailman used to delivering packages from overseas"
Thought for the day:
"Writing is easy. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and open a vein"— Red Smith