Best of the Moment
Michael Joseph Gross | Vanity Fair | 15th November 2013
Colourful account of life among the gay priests, bishops and cardinals of Rome, part of Vatican culture for a thousand years. Pope Benedict is said to have attempted a purge. Pope Francis is more accommodating. “There’s a kind of Catholic version of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ that the Jesuits would be particularly noted for. There are guys in the Jesuit world that everybody knows are gay, but they don’t go around making a big deal out of it"
Clay Shirky | 19th November 2013
Healthcare.gov fiasco follows from the "contempt" that management everywhere has for tech employees. There's no understanding of the trade-off between features, quality, and time. "The vision of 'technology' as something you can buy according to a plan, then have delivered as if it were coming off a truck, flatters and relieves managers who have no idea and no interest in how this stuff works, but it’s also a breeding ground for disaster"
Mary Beard | New York Review Of Books | 21st November 2013
Review of Margalit Fox's Riddle of the Labyrinth, an account of the deciphering of Linear B, the hieroglyphic script found on tablets from prehistoric Crete. Alice Kober, an unheralded American classics teacher, did the necessary groundwork of cataloguing the script; but British architect Michael Ventris made the intuitive leap of identifying Linear B as a form of Greek, and took the credit for himself
Ralph Langner | Foreign Policy | 19th November 2013
Three-year study of the Stuxnet virus shows it was designed to slow down Iran's nuclear production line, not to destroy it. And it did just that, probably delaying Iran's efforts by two years. The code discovered in 2009 was a second version of the virus; the first was found two years earlier but not recognised. Disclosure of Stuxnet may have been deliberate, to publicise America's technical prowess (Metered paywall)
Christopher Booker | Spectator | 21st November 2013
For British readers of a certain age, mainly, but deserving of a wider audience. The year 1963 was a watershed not only for America, with the Kennedy assassination, but also for Britain, where, with some help from the Beatles, John Profumo and Harold Wilson, public morality lost patience with the old hierarchical order of the 1950s and started to swing. No reference to Philip Larkin, oddly, save perhaps for the title (Metered paywall)
Xavier Marquez | Abandoned Footnotes | 21st November 2013
The Aztecs are "hard to love", with their oppressive tributary empire and tradition of human sacrifice. But their political culture becomes more interesting — and more alien — the more one studies it. The Aztec state was a "theatre state" in which priests were “impresarios of the sacred, practitioners of the only art that really mattered in the polity". The highest purpose of Aztec culture was the production of "transcendental experiences"
Thought for the day:
"Once the masterpiece has emerged, the lesser works surrounding it fall into place" — André Malraux