Foot Binding, Old Masters, Young Blood, Consciousness, Boris Pasternak

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Why Footbinding Persisted In China For A Millennium

Amanda Foreman | Smithsonian | 21st January 2015

"The act of foot-binding — the pain involved and the physical limitations it created — became a woman’s daily demonstration of her own commitment to Confucian values. The truth, no matter how unpalatable, is that foot-binding was experienced, perpetuated and administered by women. Though utterly rejected in China now, it survived for a thousand years in part because of women’s emotional investment in the practice" (2,330 words)

Appraising Old Masters

Steve Schlackman | Art Law Journal | 20th January 2015

Sotheby's told a seller that his painting was not by Caravaggio, whereupon it fetched £42,000 at auction. The buyer found experts who said that the painting was by Caravaggio, and worth £10 million. The seller sued Sotheby's unsuccessfully for negligence. Whether the painting is actually by Caravaggio is anybody's guess. Expert opinions are contestable and changeable, swayed by financial interest and professional rivalry (1,760 words)

Ageing Research: Blood To Blood

Megan Scudellari | Nature | 21st January 2015

The vampires were right. You can rejuvenate an old person's tissues by pumping a young person's blood into their veins. It's not clear whether this technique increases lifespan, but it does seem to "turn back the effects of ageing", and perhaps even those of Alzheimer's. Researchers say they worry about creating black market in young blood; they want to do more testing; but so far there are "few known safety concerns in humans" (3,000 words)

The Hard Problem

Oliver Burkeman | Guardian | 21st January 2015

Mind and brain are closely linked. "If you question this, try stabbing your brain repeatedly with a kitchen knife, and see what happens to your consciousness." But nobody — scientist or philosopher — can even begin to explain how the linkage works. Twenty years ago a young Australian philosopher called this the "Hard Problem" of consciousness, and the name has stuck: Why, and how, do we have self-awareness? (5,000 words)

Boris Pasternak: The Art of Fiction

Olga Carlisle | Paris Review | 9th January 1960

Conversation with Boris Pasternak at home in Peredelkino, near Moscow, three years after the publication of Doctor Zhivago, and a year before Pasternak's death. After his great novel, he is working on a play. He has lost his passion for poetry: "It is no longer possible for lyric poetry to express the immensity of our experience. Life has grown too cumbersome, too complicated. We have acquired values which are best expressed in prose" (8,300 words)

Video of the day: School Of Life — Melanie Klein

What to expect: Papercut animation introducing the work of Melanie Klein, psychoanalyst of children (6'30")

Thought for the day

Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed
Betrand Russell (

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