Deafness, East Berlin, Coal, Contemporary Art, Bob Hope, Rembrandt, Foetuses

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The Mysterious World Of The Deaf

Gavin Francis | New York Review Of Books | 7th November 2014

Review of Lydia Denworth's I Can Hear You Whisper, a "triptych of reportage, popular science, and memoir" about deafness and the strategies used to compensate for it — from Sign, to lip-reading, to cochlear implants. Sign is good for cognition in general; lip-reading is bad; implants are promising but risky. "To implant or not to implant is the question embedded in the fabric of this book, and there are no easy answers" (3,390 words)

Homesick For Sadness

Jenny Erpenbeck | Paris Review | 8th November 2014

On growing up in East Berlin before the fall of the Wall. The limitations of communist life which appeared to adults as hardships could appear to a child as comforts. "I remember above all a sort of small-town peacefulness that made a deep impression on me as child, a sense of being at home in a closed-off — and, for that reason, entirely safe — world. It was just ordinary life, and in this ordinariness we felt at home" (2,070 words)

King Coal

Anton Howes | Capitalism's Cradle | 7th November 2014

Why did Britain lead the world in the 18-19C industrial revolution? The conventional answer is that Britain had large and easily accessible coal deposits. But China had been mining coal for centuries. Early spinning and weaving machines used water power. British industrial centres developed far from coalfields, not on top of them. Coal was traded internationally, as was peat. Conclusion: The role of coal has been greatly overstated (1,160 words)

My Visit To Christie’s

Tyler Cowen | Marginal Revolution | 10th November 2014

Notes from a pre-auction viewing of today's big Contemporary Art sale at Christie’s New York. In pre-crash years "most of the sale was mediocre junk, albeit by big names". This year's sale is different: "I saw dozens of pieces which impressed me as good enough to be on display at first-rate museums". Asking prices are firm, but the quality of supply sends a different message: "Somebody senses a market peak" (500 words)

Bob Hope’s Laugh Factory

Adam Gopnik | New Yorker | 10th November 2014

Bob Hope aged badly, but at his peak he rivalled Bugs Bunny as the "the highest expression of the smart-aleck sensibility in American laughter". His golden age was the 1940s, when he made the best of the Road films with Bing Crosby. "Hope was to the tough guys and hardboiled dicks of the forties what Woody Allen was to the smooth seducers of the sixties — at once boldly aspiring and obviously inadequate" (4,100 words)

Rembrandt In The Depths

Andrew Butterfield | New York Review Of Books | 7th November 2014

Rembrandt's world crumbled around him in his final years. His common-law wife Hendrickje Stoffels was "condemned as a whore" and died of the plague. Bankruptcy forced him to auction off his house and sell the grave of his first wife, Saskia. His son Titus died in 1668. His prestige declined, clients abandoned him. Yet he continued to paint with "unprecedented technical command and emotional power" (1,450 words)

Fetal Photography

Lisa Wade | Sociological Images | 7th November 2014

Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson changed the politics of abortion with his photographs of foetuses, one of which made cover of Life in April 1965. "His pictures made it possible for people to visualize the contents of a woman’s womb independently of her body." The foetus could be visualised as "an individual with a face, a sex, a desire to suck its thumb". One problem: The photos were faked (360 words)

Video of the day: Licensed To Create

What to expect: Animated essay about the need to encourage creativity in teaching (6 minutes)

Thought for the day

Never offend an enemy in a small way
Gore Vidal (

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