MIT, Twins, Skulls, Russia, Clicks

On Joi And MIT

Lawrence Lessig | Medium | 8th September 2019

The particulars of the Epstein horror show aside, this is a terrific insider account of how “philanthropy” — we really must start using that word in inverted commas — operates in the upper reaches of American academia. “I think that universities should not be the launderers of reputation. I think that they should not accept blood money. Or more precisely, I believe that if they are going to accept blood money, or the money from people convicted of a crime, they should only ever accept that money anonymously” (2,700 words)


Twelve Words

Brian Trapp | Kenyon Review | 2nd September 2019

Astonishing, unbearable, heartbreaking, unflinching memoir of the life and death of a severely disabled twin brother. You would need a heart of stone to read this through without shedding a tear. “I closed my eyes and held him to my chest. I pretended it was twenty-nine years ago, that we weren’t even born, still sealed in the womb. Where were our bodies? Where did I end and my brother begin? There wasn’t even language yet. Our cells were still blooming, getting ready. We would do it all over again” (7,260 words)


You Cannot Keep Your Parents’ Skulls

Caitlin Doughty | Atlantic | 4th September 2019

I have never read anything like this before, and I hope never to read anything like it again. Still, I am glad it has been written. “As a funeral professional, I frankly have no idea what equipment a proper decapitation requires. The de-fleshing would probably involve dermestid beetles, used in museums and forensic labs to delicately eat the dead flesh off a skeleton without destroying the bones. There is currently no way in the United States to skeletonise human remains for private ownership” (1,044 words)


Artists & Lovers

Donald Rayfield | Literary Review | 2nd September 2019

I had not previously known that Tolstoy thought false teeth immoral — one of many pearls let slip by Rayfield in an apparent attempt to show that he knows more about the subject at hand (19th century Russian culture) than does the author of the book under review (Orlando Figes). And all is grist to the mill. Figes’s book, The Europeans is about Turgenev’s ménage with mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot, who also took Berlioz and Gounod as lovers while her husband was busy translating Don Quixote (1,380 words)


Writer Of The Future

Ann Kjellberg | Book Post | 25th August 2019

The first sentence of this piece goes straight into my lede-writers’ Hall Of Fame: “In 1996, I was working in my off hours as a secretary for the poet Joseph Brodsky when he died of a heart attack at the age of fifty-five, leaving me as his literary executor”. If only Umberto Eco were still here to write the novel that begs to follow from this beginning. What does follow is a gently dazzling essay from a revered literary editor about the perilous economics of reading well and writing well. The Browser applauds (1,300 words)


Video: A Scale Model Of The Solar System. Conventional maps and models of the solar system give no sense of the vast distances between the planets. Here is what a true scale model looks like (7m 06s)

Audio: Is It Ever Okay To Be A Cannibal? | Short & Curly Ethics podcast for children. Eating people sounds disgusting. It is disgusting. But does that mean it is wrong? (25m 18s)

Afterthought:
“People cannot forgive what they cannot punish”
— Hannah Arendt