Democritus, Ireland, Geopolitics, Hollywood, Lies, Yuri Norstein


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This Granular Life

Carlo Rovelli | Aeon | 23rd January 2017

The Ancient Greek philosopher Democritus argued that the world was made up of atoms — a class of elementary particles too tiny to see, but which combined to make everything that we do see. Aristotle and Plato rejected his ideas, setting much of natural science on a wrong course until modern times. None of his many books survives. But Democritus was perhaps our greatest scientific thinker, at least until Einstein — who proved that the atomic theory of matter was true (5,000 words)

The Boat

John Connell | Granta | 24th January 2017

A young Irishman prepares to die in 1920s Dublin. His crime was to chat carelessly with a group of tipsy British soldiers in McGrath’s public house, and for this the IRA puts him on trial for treason: “William Routledge was observed by three separate witnesses in intimate talks with crown forces on the night in question. His conversation was to lead to the arrest of one Corporal Murtagh, who was later taken to Dublin Castle and executed for his role in the fight for Irish freedom” (4,400 words)

An Interview With Stanley McChrystal

Michael Miklaucic | Center For Complex Operations | 7th December 2016

Interesting throughout, mainly on policy failures in Afghanistan and the Middle East. “Immediately after 9/11, in terms of military action we should have done nothing initially. We should have taken the first year after 9/11 and sent 10,000 young Americans — military, civilians, diplomats — to language school; Pashtu, Dari, Arabic. We should have started to build up the capacity we didn’t have. I would not have been worried about striking al-Qaeda that year; they weren’t going anywhere” (5,740 words)

The Hollywood Black List

Alex Wagner | Atlantic | 24th January 2017

“The Black List was started in 2005 by a 27-year-old film executive from west Georgia named Franklin Leonard, and has become an influential index of the most original and well-written — if not the most bankable — screenplays in Hollywood. Its power to launch careers and expedite projects is astounding. Four of the past eight Best Picture winners at the Oscars and nine of the past 18 winners for Best Screenplay or Best Adapted Screenplay appeared on the Black List” (4,500 words)

The Political Uses Of Lying

Tyler Cowen | Bloomberg View | 24th January 2017

Why lie, when people are sure to know or discover that you are lying? Partly because such lying is a show of power, a declaration that you don’t have to take into account what others think. And requiring your subordinates to lie on your behalf is a test of their loyalty — if they balk, they aren’t fully with you. This is not usual behaviour in American presidential politics, but President Trump may “simply be replicating tactics that he found useful in his earlier business and media careers” (860 words)

The Little Gray Wolf Will Come

Brian Phillips | MTV | 3rd November 2016

Loving portrait of Yuri Norstein, 74, “the finest animator in the world”. His last finished film, Hedgehog in the Fog, is loved by every Russian child. But for the past 40 years Norstein has been chasing an “absurd, unattainable ideal” — to animate Gogol’s story The Overcoat. “The irony is not lost on Norstein. A great Russian artist failing to finish a masterwork adapted from a great Russian artist who died with his masterwork unfinished. He set out to adapt Gogol, and Gogol adapted him” (10,776 words)

Video of the day: Art Is Theft

What to expect:

How ideas reproduce through artworks. Script by Daniel Cordero. Music by Ambrose Yu (1’51”)

Thought for the day

We have sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men
George Orwell

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