Coalitions, Stage Fright, Cults, Vermeer, Europe

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Coalitional Instincts

John Tooby | Edge | 22nd November 2017

Discussion of the logic of coalitions, with clear if unstated application to present-day politics. “Beta and gamma are capable of beating alpha if only they can cognitively coordinate. The instinct to belong to a coalition has urgency, preexisting and superseding any policy-driven basis for membership. This is why group beliefs are free to be so weird”. Absurdities work best as professed coalition beliefs, because they are least likely to be professed by rational people outside the coalition (1,100 words)

Stage Fright And Existential Panic

John Stokes | TLS | 15th November 2017

Reflections on stage fright. Why does it seem so shocking when actors forget a line, need a prompt, freeze on stage? Most people have a fear of public speaking; such fears are commonplace in anxiety dreams. Is the actor’s stage-fright just a more intense version of ordinary public-speaking anxiety, or is it something specific to the theatre? Probably the latter, and specific to the modern theatre, since there appear to be no clinical accounts of stage fright before the 19th century (1,100 words)

How To Get People To Join Your Cult

Ruwan Meepagala | Better Humans | 27th November 2017

You don’t call it a cult, obviously. Then, here are five techniques for persuading people to give up what they have and follow you. Use them wisely. Rule number one: “Validate my current observations, then offer an alternate explanation that includes it. Islam did this with absorbing Jesus as a prophet. Galileo did this with his earlier discoveries under church supervision. Trump kind of did this with white males. It allows the enrollee to save face in adopting a new belief system” (1,200 words)

Vermeer And Studio Method

Romas Viesulas | Five Books | 27th November 2017

Interview with the painter Jane Jelley about Vermeer’s technique, and the conjecture that he painted over real-life scenes projected on to his canvases by means of a camera obscura. “His images do seem particularly flat. Some of his paintings feature little shapes that almost touch, which make no sense really; if you had both eyes open, and could be in Vermeer’s studio, and could see what he saw, then you’d see the depth. But his paintings appear to be made by looking with only one eye” (4,400 words)

Europe’s Hidden Fractures

Brendan Simms | New Statesman | 27th November 2017

“The EU has the worst of both worlds. It has pulled off the feat of being too intrusive to be compatible with UK sovereignty, yet it has not sufficiently transcended the sovereignty of the remaining member states to make the common institutions workable. It is losing healthy limbs – both the British and the Catalans would feature highly on the ‘save list’ – while stubbornly retaining its sickest ones, dragging Greece along behind it like a shrivelled leg it would like to amputate” (3,220 words)

Video of the day Shipping & Receiving

What to expect:

First in a series of short films about the workings of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (10’04”)

Thought for the day

We are continually faced with great opportunities brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems
Margaret Mead

Podcast of the day How $100 Can Do Most Good | Freakonomics Radio

Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt answer listeners’ questions about effective altruism, traffic etiquette, real-estate agents, the PhD glut, and how to not get eaten by a bear

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