Gender, Kidnapping, James Watson, Forensics, Ceaușescus, Tolkien

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The Case For Gender Viscosity

Julian Baggini | Prospect | 1st January 2018

“If gender and sexuality are so fluid, why don’t we see more actual flow? The answer is that they are not so much fluid as viscous, more sticky than liquid. We are right to see that there are spectrums of gender and sexuality rather than discrete categories. But the existence of a spectrum does not make the use of such categories redundant. There is a spectrum between red and orange, for example, but most of the time it makes perfect sense to talk of red and orange as two distinct colours” (987 words)

How The iPhone Changed Global Kidnapping

Danielle Gilbert | War On The Rocks | 4th January 2018

The terms of trade have moved in the kidnappers’ favour. They used to need mainstream media to publicise their demands; now they post videos straight from iPhone to YouTube, which both conceals their location and increases their incentive to mistreat captives on-screen through deprivation, mutilation, humiliation. “This kind of violence, unrelated to the kidnappers’ ability to kill, is highly powerful in communicating resolve, augmenting the calculus of captivity” (1,850 words)

The Evangelist Of Molecular Biology

Algis Valiunas | New Atlantis | 2nd October 2017

Profile of James Watson, “the most famous American scientist since Oppenheimer”, who broke the code of DNA with Francis Crick when still in his twenties, one of the great scientific advances of the 20th century. His triumph in early life made him all the more difficult in later life. E.O. Wilson called him “the Caligula of biology”, even before Watson marginalised himself by championing eugenics, saying: “We must not fall into the absurd trap of being against everything Hitler was for” (16,100 words)

Death Becomes Her

Grant WIshard | National Review | 2nd January 2018

Admiring sketch of Frances Glessner Lee, who inherited a fortune, trained as America’s first woman police captain, and more or less invented forensic science as part of police procedure. She hired a carpenter to build miniatures of real-life crime scenes for training homicide detectives. “Her attention to detail — from the type of clothing worn by the victim, to the direction and shape of a blood spatter — bordered on the obsessive”. Erle Stanley Gardner attended her lectures at Harvard (918 words)

At Home With The Ceausescus

David Gelber | Apollo | 22nd December 2017

A visit to the Palatul Primăverii, or Spring Palace, home of the late Romanian dictator Nicolai Ceaușescu in suburban Bucarest. “The governments of East and West, vying for his favour, showered him with gifts, turning his home into a museum of princely luxuries. Louvre tapestries and Meissen porcelain sat cheek by jowl with Ming vases and Persian carpets. Kim Il-sung sent Korean antiques, while President Mobutu of Zaire chipped in with an assortment of ivory miniatures” (1,016 words)

The Hero Is A Hobbit

W.H. Auden | New York Times | 31st October 1954

Auden reviews and applauds the first volume of ‘Lord Of The Rings’. “Of any imaginary world the reader demands that it seem real, and the standard of realism demanded today is much stricter than in the time, say, of Malory. Mr. Tolkien is fortunate in possessing an amazing gift for naming and a wonderfully exact eye for description; by the time one has finished his book one knows the histories of Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves and the landscape they inhabit as well as one knows one’s own childhood” (750 words)

Video of the day Infinite Worlds

What to expect:

Compilation of digital special effects created to test basic motion design principles (1’22”)

Thought for the day

Culture is largely a matter of how to keep people harmlessly distracted when they are not working
Terry Eagleton

Podcast of the day Long Distance | Reply All

Alex Goldman calls back online scammers, and asks how their business works

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