Best of the Moment
Craig Brown | New Statesman | 28th May 2013
You know this, of course, but a clerihew is a four-line biographical poem, named after the inventor of the form, Edmund Clerihew Bentley. With no fixed syllabic count per line, a freedom used generously in this collection by Craig Brown. As here: "John Maynard Keynes / Helped workers lose their chains / And, by way of relaxation / Wrote The Inflation of Currency As a Method of Taxation"
Patrick Cockburn | London Review Of Books | 30th May 2013
"Five distinct conflicts have become tangled together in Syria: a popular uprising against a dictatorship, which is also a sectarian battle between Sunnis and the Alawite sect; a regional struggle between Shia and Sunni, which is also a decades-old conflict between an Iranian-led grouping and Iran’s traditional enemies, notably the US and Saudi Arabia. Finally, there is a reborn Cold War confrontation: Russia and China v the West"
Gary Marcus | New Yorker | 29th May 2013
An experiment in teaching different songs to young birds inspires a closer scrutiny of the way babies learn to babble in their first year of life. And yes, the babies learn to babble in much the same way that the birds learn to sing: incrementally, struggling to make one connection after another. "Nobody had ever really explained why babbling [in babies] took so many months; our birdsong data has finally yielded a first clue"
Eric Schliesser | New Apps | 24th May 2013
Recommended not so much for the post itself, which is a call for nominations, but for the comments thread, in which many more memorable first lines are duly aggregated. I particularly liked this one, from a paper called The Logical Form of Action Sentences: "Strange goings on! Jones did it slowly, deliberately, in the bathroom, with a knife, at midnight. What he did was butter a piece of toast"
George Monbiot | Spectator | 30th May 2013
Seriously. "Woolly maggots trash the countryside. The white plague has caused more environmental damage than all the building that has ever taken place, but to identify it as an agent of destruction is little short of blasphemy. Britain is being shagged by sheep, but hardly anyone dares say so. The literary convention that associates shepherding with virtue and purity inspires our wilful blindness to its destructive impacts"
David Runciman | London Review Of Books | 29th May 2013
Review of Charles Moore's biography, Margaret Thatcher. "The person on display here is not more intelligent than her rivals, or more principled. She chops and changes as much as they do. But she is a lot more relentless: if anything, she keeps chopping and changing long after they have gone home. She didn’t outsmart or outperform her enemies. She outstayed them. Her modus operandi, in private life as in public, was to go on and on and on"
Thought for the day:
"The mental imagery involved with pianistic tactilia is not related to the striking of individual keys but rather to the rites of passage between notes"— Glenn Gould