Errol Flynn, Islam, Frank Ramsey, Missing Person, Voynich Manuscript

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The Lightness Of Errol Flynn

Brian Doyle | American Scholar | 5th December 2016

At his peak between 1935 and 1945 Flynn was “irresistible”. He could “draw you into the trick with a wink”, combining a “mysterious alchemy of ease and wit and humor and dash” with “some barely subterranean pleasure in the delightful silliness and lovely suspension of reality of the craft”. In the end, what made him a compelling actor was also what made him, by all accounts, “a wonderful and dangerous friend and companion away from the set”. He radiated “a constant aura of why not?” (1,200 words)

The People Who Shaped Islamic Civilisation

Nicholas Pelham | 1843 | 5th December 2016

Chase Robinson’s elegant new book, Islamic Civilisation In Thirty Lives, argues the the early Muslim world was “a marketplace of ideas as well as goods”, nurturing and lionizing “free-thinking physicians and biologists, calligraphers, cartographers, historians and poets”. Islamic Cordoba was “the greatest city in Europe and produced some of the greatest minds: without the 12th-century rationalist Ibn Rushd (Averroes), the Enlightenment might never have happened” (1,150 words)

Frank Ramsey, Genius

Frank Ramsey | New York Review of Books | 5th December 2016

Frank Ramsey effortlessly corrected Wittgenstein on matters of philosophy and corrected Keynes on matters of probability when barely out of his teens. He made fundamental contributions to the study of philosophy, economics and mathematics, all before his death in 1930 at the age of just 26. A memoir of Ramsey by his sister, Margaret Ramsey, is a poor record of his life, but it is the best that we have. Ramsey was “one of the greatest intellects of his time”, and arguably of his century (4,500 words)

Unclaimed: Sixty-Six Garage

Brooke Jarvis | California Sunday | 1st December 2016

Reduced by a car crash to a “persistent vegetative state”, a young man lies in a hospital bed in California. He needs a name, so the hospital gives him one. “Legally, he became Sixty-Six Garage”. The pesos in his pocket suggest that he came recently from Mexico. As his story spreads, people begin to contact the hospital, asking about moles or scars. Is this their missing son, or husband, or brother? “The first year, there were dozens of these families. Eventually, there would be thousands” (5,400 words)

The Mysteries Of The Voynich Manuscript

Michael LaPointe | Paris Review | 1st December 2016

If we could understand the Voynich Manuscript, we might prize it much less. It is “crudely and cheaply done”. Only one of its four sections, about bathing, is visually startling: “Some baths look like holes in the ground, others seem made of solid stone. A few have windows, while others look like wedding cakes floating in midair”. The incomprehensible text “could well have been composed as an elaborate lampoon of medieval knowledge, and it’s amusing to imagine that we’re still falling for the trick” (1,400 words)

Video of the day: Tender Stories 5

What to expect:

A film such as Wes Anderson might make if he were working with Gwyneth Paltrow (2’26”)

Thought for the day

We would throw away many things if we were not afraid that others might pick them up
Oscar Wilde

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