English Usage, Theodicy, Hillary Clinton, Casablanca, Expresso

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On Making Oneself Less Unreadable

Hernan Diaz | Paris Review | 4th December 2017

In praise of H.W. Fowler, editor of Fowler’s English Usage. “He led an ascetic life: he was a runner and a swimmer (lakes, rivers, ocean); he lived with his brother in relative seclusion on the island of Guernsey; and he held — and proved — that anyone should be able to subsist on a hundred pounds a year. He rediscovered and translated Lucian; he took on, almost single-handedly, the herculean project of boiling down the entire Oxford Dictionary to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary” (1,800 words)

Tales Of War And Redemption

Phil Klay | American Scholar | 4th December 2017

US Army veteran on war as a test of religious faith. “A soldier may call out to God while in combat, but the experiences that cause him to do so might be the very ones that later cause him to abandon his faith altogether. What kind of God would allow any of the innumerable things that happen in a war zone? This old complaint takes on a particular urgency when you’ve seen children dying slowly after going through more pain than any human being should ever experience” (5,300 words)

Hillary Clinton Meets Mary Beard

Decca Aitkenhead | Guardian | 2nd December 2017

Conversation. Interesting throughout. Main topics: Sexism, male arrogance, American politics. Clinton: “There is a deliberate, very well‑organised, sophisticated assault on facts and reason and evidence. In our country, it’s driven originally by a cabal of billionaires and religious fundamentalists, and their view is that it doesn’t matter what they say. If they say it often enough and they put enough money behind it, they’ll convince a significant number of people” (3,100 words)

Cinema’s Greatest Scene

David Youngblood | Seven Inches Of Your Time | 28th November 2015

The singing of La Marseillaise in Casablanca is the turning-point of the film, and, arguably, “the greatest scene ever filmed”. “It tells so much of a story in such a brief moment, distilling numerous characters down to their cores and giving them developments and arcs through the merest of glances. It’s the turning point that pushes the plot and its characters to the point of no return, where a final and deadly confrontation will become necessary. All because of the power of a single song” (2,400 words)

Finding X In Espresso

Vitaliy Kaurov | Wolfram Blog | 30th November 2017

Adventures in computation lexicology. A physicist uses mathematical analysis and modeling to decide whether “expresso” is a legitimate variant spelling of “espresso” in English, and finds that it is. While “expresso” is used much less frequently than “espresso”, its usage has held up well over time; so it is not going to go away, and, given a piush, it might some day overtake “espresso” in popularity. Wonk alert: Quite a lot of mathiness, especially around the middle (4,470 words)

Video of the day A Rock Star’s Renaissance

What to expect:

Kip Winger discusses his transition from big-hair rock-star to classical composer (4’30’0

Thought for the day

No intelligent idea can gain general acceptance unless some stupidity is mixed in with it
Fernando Pessoa

Podcast of the day Human Flow | LARB

Ai Weiwei talks to Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher about the global refugee crisis

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