Susan Sontag, Islam & Terrorism, Music Fraud, Misleading Words, Hedonics & Law

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Finding Susan

Amanda DeMarco | LA Review Of Books | 10th March 2015

Daniel Schreiber's biography, Susan Sontag, treats its subject primarily as a public figure. Her fame is central to the story. "What we get is a sort of concept of Sontag, a sketch of the life she lived in context. It is a biography from the outside, but not far outside. It is lucid, respectful, considered. This biography will not make you understand Sontag, but it will create a framework for you to develop a fuller understanding" (2,350 words)

Countering Islamic Extremism

Peter Singer | Project Syndicate | 10th March 2015

President Obama avoids describing terrorists as "Islamic" even when they declare they are acting in the name of Islam — for fear of alienating Muslims, and because doing so would appear to support the terrorists' claims to religious legitimacy. But clearly, religion does motivate such terrorists; and if we are not willing to address their motives plainly, we are never going to persuade them that they are wrong (960 words)

Phantom Of The Orchestra

Christopher Beam | New Republic | 2nd March 2015

Critics hailed Mamoru Samuragochi as "the Japanese Beethoven", and called his 2003 First Symphony a work of genius. He wrote scores for films and television. His claim to be totally deaf only added to his legend. How could he write such music? The answer was that he couldn't. He probably wasn't deaf either. He paid a silent partner to write the music for him. A decade later, the ghost talked and the scandal broke (7,200 words)

Arika Okrent | The Week | 10th March 2015

Memorise this and you will have talking points for the rest of your life. The derivations of male and female are quite distinct, and the overlap of pronunciation is accidental. The step in stepmother does not signal a degree of distance in the relationship; it comes from Old English steop, connoting "bereavement". Outrage is not formed from rage. Shamefaced isn't about your face; it's a corruption of shamefast (695 words)

Guilty Pleasures

Oren Bar-Gill | New Rambler | 9th March 2015

Another excellent review from the New Rambler, which has found a useful niche midway between scholarly and general-interest writing. This discussion of hedonics and happiness policy has a touch too many abbreviations, but otherwise explains admirably how social scientists seek to measure human happiness; the weaknesses in their methodologies; and the place of hedonic psychology in justice and law (2,500 words)

Video of the day: This Video Will Make You Angry

What to expect: Cartoonist C.G.P. Grey explains how ideas spread on social media (7'25")

Thought for the day

Try to be free; you will die of hunger
Emil Cioran (

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